“Mountains may rise and fall,
And venturers travel near or far,
But nought will change at all
When wizards rule in Cinnabar”
As the old song goes, nothing has really changed in the world that takes its name from its ancient and eternal metropolis. It may be centuries since the army of Ulafang the Merciless shook the foundations of its unconquered walls but Cinnabar remains the glory of the age, sustained by its succession of Wizard Lords. Every seven years, Cinnabar is host to the greatest contest of magic and wizardry – with the grand winner acceding to the throne of the City.
The Great River still flows southward, rising from the plains south of Cinnabar as a myriad of riverlets to become the great river north of Thentis, an ancient capital of a once great empire. Passing through the canals and waterways of the old capital, the Great River crosses the woods and cuts through the grand gorge in the Iron Hills to reach the great Bay of Gallas. The river is a major trading route into the interior. The delta of the Great River is a rich, swampy area inhabited by Lizardkin, who maintain an uneasy truce with the great port of Oldburgh, one of the leading cities of the Southron League. The League is ruled by the great magnates and merchant houses that inhabit the gracious and prosperous trading cities of the south coast.
“Why would an ogre lie?” – The unknown adventurer
The Iron Hills, the mountain range that follows the south coast and culminates in Pelos Point (and the city of Pelos) extending into the Unending Sea, are mostly wilderness occupied by various demi-human races, wild beasts and legendary monsters. The Southron Road, which provides a land link between the cities of the Southron League, does have a few tracks leading off to trading posts, mines, holds or minor habitations, but is the only true sign of civilization evident between the port cities. Given that the only major trade route north is by the Great River, and that shipping by sea is often quicker and safer, the Southron Road is less well-travelled and poorly maintained in parts. Winter storms, which can inhibit sea travel, usually results in caravans travelling the Southron Road.
Unlike the Spine of the World, which is a (mostly) impassable range of tall, jagged and forbidding range of volcanic mountains that form the western border of this world, the Iron Hills are older, more eroded and less impenetrable. They are, however, infested with every kind of giant kin, monsters, beasts and savage tribes. There are a few Dwarven colonies but, as is usual with their kind, they are well hidden and reclusive.
If the Spine of the World is a forbidding and dangerous barrier, the Boiling Sea is equally so. Some sages say that the Boiling Sea is just the volcanic and rocky Spine descending into the seabed.
In addition to the volcanic islands, geysers, whirlpools, reefs and other natural dangers, there are unnatural dangers that make the Boiling Sea a place to be avoided. As the sailing masters of the Southron League are fond of saying, there is danger and adventure enough in the known seas around the continent without hazarding the certain doom of the Boiling Sea. The constant turmoil of the sea is responsible for its name, not the general water temperature (although there are many areas where the water is, in fact, boiling).
While some have attempted flight over the Spine or the Boiling Sea, it is unknown if this practice is successful. Aside from those who have turned back, no one has ever returned from a determined attempt to cross. The other side remains a mystery, with equal numbers speculating that it is an earthy paradise or place of eternal torments. If the great wizards know, they certainly are not telling.
West of the Spine, the foothills descend into a densely wooded forest. These woods give way to a large grass plain that extends for many leagues. At the centre of the plain is the Lich Desert, a dry and empty place that has the City of Cinnabar at its rough centre. Some say the name of the desert comes from the ancient tombs of the first ruling wizards, whose potent protecting magic both desolates the area and makes travel beyond the established caravan routes hazardous. The less gullible say that the desert is a natural phenomenon and adds to the natural defense of the City. It would be a massive logistical challenge for any army to cross the desert, let alone besiege the massive walls (or court the wrath of the ruling wizard).
As the plains stretch westward toward the Bay of Alkas, they rise into gently wooded hills. The River Tam, which has its source in the fabled Dragon Lake in the remote northern lands, also wends its way across the western plains before crossing the forested hills and emptying into this Sea. The City of Krimzan, originally populated by refugees from the Sunken Kingdom, is at the mouth of the Tam. Although many human settlements can be found near the river, the deep woods south of the Tam are known to be inhabited by Elves.
Unlike the Dwarves, who have some trade and external contact, the Elf Kingdoms resist all contact and fiercely resent any intrusion in their lands. Elves who venture beyond these borders are exiles, either by choice or by law, and rarely return to their homelands. Rumours abound about the nature of elven society, each more fantastical than the last. It is unwise to seek confirmation of these rumours or test your wit with such an exile.
As with any vast area with a rich and diverse history, time has seen the rise and fall of many great lords, kingdoms and settlements. The land is littered with the remnants of these endeavours, from overgrown holds recently abandoned (or destroyed) to the most ancient remnants of once-glorious temples, palaces and cities. Life is in flux but the land endures.