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Amarin - Vardania's Southern Border

Beautiful, is it not? A sprawling diamond necklace around our mother Tyanis' throat. Always there to nurture her children. Or to choke the life from them if it so desires.
— Edric of Ganean, Feran Adventurer
 
Vardania is a scarred woman. There is not a single place where the remnants of Oblivion cannot be seen with the naked eye. Some claim that this creates an ugly visage, while others see it as just another facette of beauty. Few places exist where these two views combine more than at Vardania's easternmost scar: the mighty river Amarin.
 

Apocalyptic Birth

 
Like every other facette of the world, the Amarin was born during the greatest of Calamities over 4000 years ago. The forces unleashed in those ancient days tore into the stone of the old continent of Tyanis and carved deep channels many thousands of kilometres long. Largest among these are the three great rivers of the world: Kefran, Elenis and Amarin. River might be the wrong word to use here, however.   They are more canyons, up to a kilometre deep and up to dozens of kilometres wide, with steep banks and nary an island to be found. Their appearance has given way to many a legend around the Divide according to which they have been carved by the sword of some god or demon, for how else could these lines with barely a curve or bend be explained? Oblivion has given them more than just a striking appearance, however.   Their other, vastly more popular, name may hint at the nature of these streams: the Great Beasts. Each hides a dark nature, a penchant for disaster on a grand scale, always just infrequent enough to allow civilization to thrive along their banks. But it is always there, and those living near the streams know that below the calmly flowing water, there hides a monster ready to devour them.
 

A Diamond Necklace

 
Few would find the name "Beast" fitting where it based on appearance alone, for the Amarin is by all accounts a thing of beauty. A band of clear blue water, framed by lines of jagged stone of blackened colour, a shining streak within an ocean of green and yellow and orange. But the contrast alone is not all that will take your breath away.  
Wall of Water

And do so it will, for the Amarin is of a simply astonishing size. Where it meets Tyanis Wound, the river is a gargantuan sixty kilometres wide, and even at its smallest, still boasts an impressive three kilometres. Bridging such a distance is simply impossible with the available tools and technology. The only way to really cross is by boat or ship, and even that is an art at times. Currents within the Amarin can change from one day to another and strongly at that. However, they never do without warning, and skilled navigators know which signs to heed.
Shield of the Amarin

One area where the flow of the river is broken is at the aptly named Shield Islands. Remnants of a landbridge that collapsed sometime in the early 1st Millennium, they form a line that stretches about halfway into the river, essentially dividing its mouth into two lanes. Fertile earth and the warm climate of this region make them an attractive place to settle, and that is without even considering their importance as a centre for trade and travel. They are a prize too tempting, and every power in the area desires at least some measure of control here.
  Mirror of Dusk and Dawn   Twice a day, once in the early morning hours when the sun rises behind the Dawn Wall and once in the evening as it sinks behind the Dusk Wall, there is a moment when the light of its rays hits the waters of the Amarin in a perfect angle and creates an orange-green glow that is unparalleled in its intensity and beauty.   The entire river, from the sea to the mountains, will glow for nearly half an hour each time and bathe all around in a light that is in equal parts entrancing and comforting. When the days are at their longest, the people around the Amarin come together regardless of creed or faith to celebrate the moment that the shine is the most lasting.
 
She is a nice looking beast indeed, but one of endless hunger nonetheless.
— Alean, Thraecian River Captain
 

Life and Death

 
Appearances can be deceiving. Truth is that the river holds the power to break empires and entire civilizations, undoing the work of a thousand generations in but a day. First is a rumbling that even those on the coast will feel in their teeth. Then a rushing wind bringing with it the stench of death and burning earth. Last is a wall of black, a wave so titanic that it turns night into day, rushing down the river at speeds beyond comprehension. It washes away entire cities, rips apart solid stone and earth and toys with ancient trees like a toddler would with toys.   Vardanians call it the Scaevanis, the Fury Tide, Ferans know it as the Fist of God and Thraecians name it the Blackrush. But to each and every one of them, it is death, nature's fury in its purest form. Every two centuries, the wave will appear, crush everything in its path along the entire length of the Amarin and then disperse into the Divide. Its origins hide somewhere behind the Dawn Wall together with the source of the river itself. People would be justified in asking why people would risk settling in such a place then. The answer is simple.   While it brings death, the Amarin also brings life. Its waters and many small tributaries make the lands surrounding it some of the most fertile on earth. Hunger is almost unknown here, even in the worst of climates, and during summer, one will be hard pressed to find a place brimming with more life.  

The Southern Border

  More so than the boon it brings, the Amarin serves as a natural bulwark against anyone trying to enter Vardania from the south. Its vast proportions and, at times, unpredictable nature ensure that any crossing that isn't undertaken with great care will result in disaster. One of those that made it, the so-called Children of the Prophet, have gone further than most and made the river their own:  
Holy River

In ancient times, The Prophet led his followers across the Amarin and into Vardania. Here, the chosen of the Trinity first set foot on promised earth and founded the first Church on hallowed ground. Since then, this land has become the heart of Feran religion, containing the seat of the faith in Anrak and many of the oldest churches and shrines.
Economic Artery

Faith aside, the river also serves as the economic basis for the entire region. Agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, the textile industry, there is not one profession in these lands that is not in some way dependent on the Great Beast. Trade is by far the greatest moneymaker, however, even small towns earn more than some realms.
Hive of Power

Faith and money congregate here to form the centre of Feran power. Other realms might produce better warriors, but few possess the sheer stamina that the states of Anrak and Senrand can muster. Even when under the influence of larger empires, the region holds considerable influence, and its alignment may even decide the fate of their would-be overlords.
  As old as the modern world itself, the Amarin has seen many things. From the greatest of triumphs to the most dreadful of disasters, its waters have served as the mirror for every aspect of human life. Few could imagine a world where it has not influenced the way the Northern Daughter moves. In both life and death, the southern river is a constant.
 
Realms come and go. Cities rise to glory and fall into obscurity. Entire civilizations are born and laid to grave. But the Amarin remains the same. A sleeping saint and slumbering beast.
— Unknown
Alternative Name(s)
The Great Northern Beast
The Promised Border
Tyanis' Necklace
Type
River
  Mysterious Origin  
All the people on the Divide know about the origins of the Amarin is that it hails from somewhere behind the Dawn Wall. Explorers have long since tried to find the source, in part out of the hope to find a pass through the Wall. All they found was a vast bowl surrounded by an entire system of waterfalls that rain down from steep cliffs several thousand meters high. This Valley of Eternal Rain is the source of the known part of the Amarin.   Living with Disaster   While the "Fits of the Great Beast", as they are known by most people, are few and far between, they are common enough for the people to prepare. The larger cities and castles along its banks have developed various strategies over the centuries. Anrak especially is famous for its vast network of channels, dikes and wavebreakers, all designed to hold back the worst of the flood. That these floodwalls are up to thirty meters thick is a testament to the forces they have to endure.   Even in a region as rich as this one, few can stomach the horrendous cost such efforts bring. Most cities, therefore, employ a method known as the "sacrificial suburbs". They are, in essence parts of the city designed to be destroyed and then rebuilt without much effort. The true core of the settlement, made from stone and to withstand the ages, is usually located up to five kilometres from the riverbank.
 
by Qstom
 
To live near the Amarin is to live with the knowledge that your great-grandchildren will be devoured by the Great Beast.
— Symus of Thraecia
  The Grand Bridge  
One of the most popular myths surrounding the Amarin is the story surrounding King Antinidas and his disastrous attempt to bridge the river. Supposedly ruling over a city made of gold, the ancient Vardanian monarch had grown so arrogant as to claim that even the gods were peasants when compared to him. The gods, in turn, challenged him to prove his superiority by building a bridge that could span the Amarin.   Antinidas would spend the rest of his life trying to do so. He gathered the greatest architects and builders of his age around him and invested all of his enormous wealth. But success would forever elude him. Every attempt ended in failure, and the strain he put his realm under would eventually see him driven away by an enraged populace. The once-proud King would find his end on the last bridge he tried to build. While trying to finish it on his own, abandoned by even his family, he was swept away by a Blackrush.
 

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Cover image: by Lucas Staniec

Comments

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28 May, 2022 01:28

What an excellent quote to start off the theme and tone of this article! And excellent descriptive language throughout. The bit describing the Amarin as a"Diamond Necklace" was poetically written. I love that of course this river is seemingly created via a disaster, and also is the source of disaster itself -- that whole section under 'Life and Death' might be my favourite part.   Excellent stuff!


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30 May, 2022 14:17

As a Dutchie, I like the Anrak approach. We have areas dedicated to be flooded every now and then, so that is definitely an approach we'd take here as well.

31 May, 2022 19:54

Nice article! Very interesting region with the recurring disasters. Must be quite stressfull suddenly knowning that it is coming and not being able to escape in time.

Feel free to check out my River challenge article and my Secrets in the swamp Adventure article if you want to see what I am up to!
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E. Christopher Clark
2 Jun, 2022 11:10

"Vardania is a scarred woman" is a great opening sentence. That, together with that stunning cover image, hook me right away. Well done on this whole thing!

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Garrett Grace Lewis
5 Jun, 2022 08:20

"The Grand Bridge" section is an especially nice touch on this, a story that ties into everything else we've learned from the article!