Puqopen Navu (pu-KOH-pen nah-VOO)

"The Gorge? No, I won't take ye to the Gorge, and you'd best change your mind about going there if ye know what's best fer ye. There's abominations down there, nasty things that are horrible, misshapen, hideous... no one goes down there. And you shouldn't either."
— Muioqa Desert Guide

Geography

The Forbidden Gorge is located on the northern side of of the Rinzeremel Mountains, near the eastern end of the range. It sits between the mountains and the massive crater-like depression caused by The Cataclysm.   The Gorge is a geological feature created not by common forces but by the shock waves that were sent out by the blast of the Cataclysm. These waves buckled and warped the ground and the underlying formations, eventually causing massive cracks in the surface that, in some cases, drop hundreds of feet with sheer rock walls.   Because of the way it formed, the edge at the top of the gorge is sharp and jagged. The winds of the Cataclysm scoured the surface free of any topsoil, so all that remains is hard rock. This rock has cracks that run perpendicular to the Gorge, and some have widened enough to allow access to the lower levels. At the bottom, it is believed there may be an underground river and perhaps an active lava flow.   Supporting the possibility of thermal activity deep in the gorge is the powerful scent of sulfur that drifts up into the higher sections of the gorge. The source is unknown, but it is reminiscent of "mud pools" found elsewhere on Arnathia, areas where water and soil have combined over a source of heat, creating bubbling pools of hot mud.

Ecosystem

Not much is know of the lower reaches of the Gorge. Temperatures are exceedingly hot even in the few areas where adventurers have attempted to map. Even so, there are creatures that have adapted to making the Gorge home. The Gorge has its own circle of life, from large birds that soar up using the thermal currents to some reptiles.   There is even some scarce vegetation that lives in the Gorge. A few trees have adapted to the upper reaches, rooting themselves in the cracks and crags near the surface. In addition, lower down, some mushrooms somehow thrive with the heat. It is believed these mushrooms can process the sulfuric gases that emanate from below and use them as nutrients. Needless to say, these would be very dangerous to ingest.

Localized Phenomena

While most stories about the Gorge were created to scare away people from adventuring, one type of story endures and has had some evidence to back it.   As the story goes, many individuals who were mining and working in the canyons of the Rinzeremel Mountains to the south were hit by the massive winds and radiation created by The Cataclysm. They should have died. But many did not. These individuals were scarred, hobbled, disfigured. In the ensuing 30-Year Winter, they would not have survived on the surface. But below, in the gorge, where geothermal activity was constant, they would be able to survive more easily. It is believed these survivors carved dwellings into the rock faces of the Gorge's walls.   After years of only having each other to survive and procreate, the mutations from the blast began showing up more frequently in the offspring of the survivors. These descendants are considered Abominations.

History

"We have much to learn from this region. From its geothermal resources to the possibility of mining more rare elements from the depths of the chasm, we have yet to explore the opportunities of this forgotten and often maligned area.   But we must also be wary. There are strange markings on the wall, scratches with what appears to dried blood in the crevices. Large, dark birds that seem to soar from the depths. There is something that feels deeply inhospitable here, and I can't say what. We must take care and not be foolhardy,"
The Gorge sits upon the Rinzeremel/Muioqa fault line and is the aftermath of a massive rupture in the surface that now extends down hundreds of feet.
- Emerine Solina, in her book "Mysteries of the Muioqa Desert"
Before The Cataclysm, this region was already seismically active. The blast force and the shock waves that accompanied it triggered already existing forces, causing the land to heave and split.   The fissure also seems to be continuing to grow, adding about an arm's length at each end every year. It continues to be seismically active.   In 964 ATG, the adventurer and cartographer Emerine Solina traveled to the Gorge to do mapping and other documentation. The hope was that through exploration, more could be learned about the structure of the Arnathian world.   When Solina returned, she swore to return to the Gorge to continue her exploration. Unfortunately, Solina was tragically killed in a freak accident in suspicious circumstances.
All Images created BY Kahuna the Elder, with source materials from Pixabay, Pexels, Unsplash, Artbreeder and public domain sources.
Alternative Name(s)
The Forbidden Gorge
Type
Badlands
Location under
Inhabiting Species

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