It sleeps uneasy. I don't want to be here when the land wakes up.
Aschar is a land of angry earth and wandering fire, home to many active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes. Its mountains reach to the skies while lava-carved valleys hide secrets in their shadows. No other part of the Surface has as grand or as many mountains as Aschar. Ash and smoke choke the sky while boiling magma cut brilliant wounds of light through the haze.
It is here that the Surface vents its most violent fury and spawns its most precious wonders.
Aschar is dominated by mountains, with valleys and plains between sky-piercing peaks. Snow and frost cap many of the mountains, remnants from some distant eon, while columns of smoke rise to the sky across the region. The frequent eruptions have cast a shroud of ash over much of Aschar and the flow of lava have scored deep gashes into rock. Like most of the Surface, Aschar is cold and dry with the magma in volcano or eruptions providing a searing contrast. At any given time, ash drifts through the air, clouds ranging in size from spanning entire valleys to isolated pockets and the smell of ash and sulfur is everywhere.
Most of what have been explored in Aschar lie between those mountains, braving the dangers of volcanic eruption and crushing rock-slides in exchange for shelter from the Blight
that sears the plains just beyond its borders. To the south, the mountains begin to shrink and the Shrouded Lands
The many mountains and volcanoes are the heartlands of Aschar. It is a mix of sheltered plains and valleys, jagged mountain chains, and smoldering calderas. Small lakes and ponds dot the landscape, springing from either melting glaciers and snow-capped peaks or underground springs and rivers snake down the slopes rom them. Not all are made of water, with run-off from the volcanoes and sulfur-springs creating colorful lakes of poison. Even when Aschar is at rest, magma boils in great volcanoes or bleeds from mountains in sluggish streams across stone.
The highest mountains in Aschar offer a commanding view of the rest of the region and beyond. It has been the dream of many to use such lofty perches to gaze out into the Shrouded Lands, or towards the stars. Between storms, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, success for such projects have been few and far between.
"False" is the cruelest thing to attach to "hope". There is no Garden. Only rock, blight, lava and death.
The lands between the mountain range between small plateaus to mile-long plains, caller the Valley-World. Most are craggy and lifeless, regularly scoured clean of life by fire and rockfall. Nomadic beasts travel between different valleys, feeding on the melting rock near lakes of sulfur or hunt the other denizens of the valleys. Some are more fortunate, shielded both from the wrath of the mountains the the Blight beyond. These become home to thriving, hidden worlds of lichen, moss, bush and weed that can come to cover an entire Valley in a rich coat of green and plant life.
The Valleys are inaccessible through the Outer Shell and only a journey across the Surface will find them. The Atharkam Region
begins in the depths of such a valley, a unexplored and disconnected section of the Outer Shell.
Some valleys are shielded from the wind and with nothing to carry it elsewhere, causing them to drown in volcanic ash. These plains are called Heaps and can be found throughout Aschar. Like any other valley, the Heaps are buried between mountains and span entire plains between them. Some have ash so deep that an explorer could step onto the surface and plunge deep, while others see enough wind to remain ankle high.
Not all Heaps are so utterly shrouded though, and nearly every valley has some corner where the wind does not reach and the ash piles high.
In places, the ash melt into a thick and tar-like sludge that trap animals and explorers alike. Such pits are dangerous hazards even at distance, with the gas from the bubbling ooze enough to poison anyone unfortunate enough to breathe it in.
Flora & Fauna
Life in Aschar is broadly divided in two categories: those who live within the ash and volcanoes, and those who do not. Heat-seeking reptiles cluster around the open veins of magma or burrow into the warm ash, while the peaks make unreachable nests for creatures like the Watchers
. Aschar has more flying beasts than perhaps any other part of the Surface and aerial duels between such creatures are a common sight. The more bold among explorers sometimes attempt to steal the eggs from their nest, selling these as a rare delicacy.
The more lush of the valleys hold the greatest concentration of life, the flourishing plant-life supporting a wide variety of animals. Everything from acid-spewing beetle-things to many-armed predators have been seen by explorers, making anything more than a temporary hunting lodge there a dangerous prospect at best.
Fire and Ash
First step into a new world, just beyond the ash. Who wouldn't want to go?
Despite its many dangers, Aschar sees many visitors. Atharkam
can only be reached by trekking across the mountains and there are plenty of Kaia
eager to make their mark by delving into the unknown. For the less adventurous, Aschar has a wealth of resources to exploit with the most common and perhaps most valuable being the volcanic ash. Sometimes called 'black gold', the ash is one of the best fertilizers available in Araea and farms across the deep will pay handsomely for it.
The valleys have always been a lure to would-be pioneers that seek to settle the Surface, while hunters and prospectors roam the mountains in search of bounty. But Aschar is a dangerous place, and many who go into the mountains never return.
So far, only one settlement has weathered the Aschar's fury to set down roots. The ash-harvesting city of Cha'i clings to the polluted corpse of a formerly verdant valley, sending its slaves into the Heaps. What precious few gardens of life that remain are jealously guarded and their bounty enjoyed only by the wealthy. The poor and the working eat ash-rats and hardy mushroom, a stone's throw away from it.
Rich or poor, Aschar makes no distinction. The city has already been leveled once and its end may be an inevitability.