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The Ghastly Expanse

"The Living Ocean", "the Sea of Storms", "the Grinding Ice".

Overview:

The Ocean has its silent caves, deep, quiet, and alone;
Though there be fury on the waves, beneath them there is none
The awful spirits of the deep hold their communion there;
And there are those for whom we weep, the young, the bright, the fair.
Calmly the wearied seamen rest beneath their own blue sea.
The ocean solitudes are blest, for there is purity.
The earth has guilt, the earth has care, unquiet are its graves;
But peaceful sleep is ever there, beneath the dark blue waves.
- Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Ocean
 
Also called ‘the Sea of Storms’ by the Aeneans, it is named such by the Kasharrii for its eldritch, terrifying and bizarre properties. The first affirmation any sailor would tell a landlubber about the Expanse is that it is alive. It is a living, breathing, thinking Ocean, capable empathy, rage and many other emotions. As such, a dozen rules are drilled into every mariner’s skull whenever they’re on deck, chief amongst them being: don’t disrespect the Ocean lest you wish to capsize, and do not under any circumstances feed it bodies lest you want to find the dead at your doorstep.   It is known as the Sea of Storms for its brutal tempests and winds, that makes navigation incredibly dangerous. In addition to this, the depths of the Ocean are writhing with all manners of sea serpents, leviathans, giant squids and snakes, etc. Any marine life that could crush a ship in two is found here, and is often dumb enough to mistake one's ship for a delicious, crunchy snack. What makes the Expanse a more dangerous place, however, are the constant of ‘astral pirates’. Named as such for their habit of striking during the night (more on that later), these pirates, “Eri’in”, are a seabound breed of people who have lived on large sailing cities within the Expanse for centuries.

Geography

Standard Issue Navigator's Map
A map of the Kasharrii Empire's territorial claims, with annotations from a Kasharrii Navigator.
A standard issue map of the Ghastly Expanse, annotated and labelled by a navigator... It is dated 1154 P.R.
 
The Ghastly Expanse surrounds the entirety of the world, and reaches from the southern coasts of the Rimereach Wastelands to the northern shores of the Kasharrii Empire. In between these two coastlines, many islands are scattered like teeth splattered across its surface. The Expanse, on its surface, resembles any other ocean, only without end in sight. Its depths are scarred by deep rifts and rising mountains, giving the ocean waves' bizarre and twisted motions that can catch unwary sailors off guard.
 
Notable Islands within the Ghastly Expanse:
The Aenokampian Archipelago, is considered the midway point between Aedelwynn, and the Kasharrii Empire. It is a set of mountainous islands that are clustered together, some of which hover in the skies. The islands are strewn with the ruins of a previous civilisation, the language of which is widely untranslated, can be found across the mountains and floating islands. Aenokampos, after which the archipelago is named, is the largest of the dozen or so islands. The Aenean have always traded throughout the Expanse, being the sole people who can create 'navigation orbs'. These useful multidirectional compasses allowed Aenean sailors to find their way across the Astral Sea, and often traded tales from fantastical lands with their customers, be they Aedelfolk, Kasharrii, or Hebenvalen. Aenean wine and goatswool is considered a luxury in Aedelwynn.
  • A grim truth remains: It is said by Kasharrii merchants that navigation orbs are made from the souls of lost sailors, who yearn to find their homes. These souls are captured into bronze and glass orbs, notched with silver.
 
The Eri'in Argosy, is a scattering of islands lost within a perpetual storm in the Ghastly Expanse, home to the people whose name is given to these slick obsidian black isles: the Eri'in. Very few have truly glimpsed the Argosy, and in fact only know of this from runaway slaves, or captured raiders. It is said that the islands move like large obsidian ships, where sea serpents dwell and make their nests, and giant sails pull the archipel forwards to sail the Ghastly Expanse for all eternity. It is said the land is cast under perpetual storm, and that the Eri'in ally themselves with evil Merfolk to raid other islands, attack ships, sink treasure barges, capture slaves, etc.
  • A grim truth remains: The Eri'in are said ride sea serpents into battle, as part of an age old contract between their immortal undead queen, and an unfathomable ocean god. Some claim the queen and the god are one and the same.

Localized Phenomena

When Night Falls...
The Ghastly Expanse has many properties one might define as supernatural, the mightiest of which happens at night fall. Put simply, when night falls, the Ocean's roil comes to a halt. Though the waves still roll over its surface, it slumbers long enough to reflect the night sky. As the horizon blends with the starry heavens above, the Ocean ensnares all those on its surface, and transports them somewhere else. Somewhere mystical and bizarre. Sailors and scholars have named this place the Astral Sea. It is a place filled with wonders and horrors, and is incredibly difficult to navigate. Only the navigation orbs produced by the Aenean people allow any navigator and helmsmen to find true north.   While traversing the Astral Sea, there is no up or down. Vessels float seemingly midair, can delve beneath the waves to seek treasures hidden beneath the blue, and require no breathing. However when the sun rises, the water returns, possibly engulfing any unweary travellers still stuck in the Ocean's depths. The Eri'in use this event to travel long distances, and it is believed their Argosy uses such methods to appear and disappear at will. Only large stretches of land are immune to these effects, and many druids believe river & coastline spirits protect travellers from this eldritch phenomenae.

Fauna & Flora

While home to what one might expect of an ocean, the Expanse is the water womb of many sea monstrosities, from hunter sharks and ivororcas further north of Aedelwynn, to sea serpent that ram into ships, to harpies that have made their nests on the various large reefs, or even sea lions - grand and ferocious predators of the arctic north. Sailors speak in hushed tones about devil whales, dragon turtles, as well as krakken, however no mariner speaks of the horrific truth of the Sea of Storms.   While the living creatures of the Ocean are all named by the Aedelfolk as 'An Muerrow' - meaning 'Of The Sea' -, there are other more terrifying residents to the darkest depths of the sea. The drowned dead, and their lumbering master: the Nuckelavee. It isn't legend but fact that anyone buried or drowned at sea will return as 'manes' to haunt the families that abandonned them. The Nuckelavee is the leader of this procession, the consort of the Ocean, a demonic rider merged with his horse, that brings blight, death and devastation to those who do not offer the seas tribute, and let their dead rot in its pelagic depths.   As for the merfolk, there are many different kinds, some benevolent, others malevolent; all of which are detailed in the following article: An Muerrow - The Race of Merfolk.

Legends of the Ghastly Expanse

"There are beasts that defy even my understanding, my knowledge. Things that were created neither by the Spoken Art, nor natural philosophy, nor Gods it would seem. Things only the deepest nightmares can conjure, monstrosities seemingly borne from the horrors of the world, as is dreamt by an unthinking, uncaring, raging creature. And it is in this watery womb, that such fascinating, terrifying creatures can be found."
Journal 26, Helwr Môr, "Helfeirch Taibhse".

Alternative Name(s)
The Astral Sea, the Endless Maw
Type
Ocean

The Nuckelavee

Nuckelavee by James Torrance

The Nuckelavee is the rider of the depths, the knight of fathoms, the master of the drowned dead and the scourge of the Ocean. It has many names for different cultures, but in Aedelwynn it is known as the Nuckelavee, or 'Old Nick'. Known as the 'nauchllywvi' by An Edel, or 'mukkelevi' by the Ferdianfolk, it appears every 700 years to spit out the dead that have been abandonned into the Drink. In many Llys adh Faen engravings, what of them endured at least, it is said the Edel would prepare for this battle, this cyclical invocation of the dead, in hopes to prevent the spread of the undead and disease. Superstition claims the Nuckelavee will not strike where a Caoidh Lann is present.

The Cirein-Cròin
"Seven herrings, a salmon's fill;
Seven salmon, a seal's fill;
Seven seals, a large whale's fill;
Seven whales, a cirein-cròin's fill;"

The Cirein-Cròin is rumoured to be a gigantic sea serpent, adverse to light, master and progenitor of all others. It is said to be capable of devouring entire cities, and is an emissary of the Ocean, second only to the Nuckelavee. Often, large waves crash into the coastlines of islands and Aedelwynn, drowning thousands and dragging whole houses away. This is believed to be the Cirein-Cròin's work. It is believed that its approach can be foretold through the dead bodies of 7 whales.
Credit to: Inon Zur


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