This will be my final entry. Kai is the fastest among us and will carry this missive back to Dhanû and tell of what we have found. Perhaps this war is not so hopeless after all - there are powers in this world that defy the spread of cold we have seen. We will descend into the Ziggurath to find answers. If we die, remember our names and sing of our glories. It will not be for naught.The first explorers to tell of the Ziggurath were dismissed as raving and mad, sanity lost in their long treks through the Lost Lands. What they described was impossible: a perfectly symmetrical pit carved out of the stone, vast in size and immeasurably deep. As the years passed and the Lost Lands have crept into the Sheoin Region, the Ziggurath have faded further into obscure myth. It was not until others began speaking of places in the Lost Lands where the ice did not reach, of strange steps that seemed carved by hand, that the Ziggurath reemerged from legends long forgotten.
The Journey Through Hell
I'd heard stories of the Lost Lands... But they do little justice to the place. The air is so cold! Our breath comes out as steam and our eyebrows freeze. I can't help but think that should any blood be shed here, it'll freeze before it even hit the ground. We are well provisioned and prepared. For all her faults, Sōtari Q'in has proven her worth and the value of her advice. The insulated coats of chitin she insisted we bring are heavy but do much to keep the cold out. I can't imagine going here without them. The caves around us are frozen. After the first few miles of crawling through tunnels, I can no longer see stone. The glow-powder helps us see now that the Ahi Bugs have died. Frozen to death. Should the Lost Lands continue to spread, everything in Sheoin will look like this forsaken place.The Ziggurath can only be reached through a treacherous journey through the Lost Lands. This freezing region of caverns has been completely dominated by the cold-spreading monsters of Sheoin, coating the stone in frost and ice. The ice is sculpted by the inhabitants, gnawed jagged by skittering hordes of frost-eating bugs or made perfectly smooth by unknown beasts. Like blood veins, chitinous tendrils sprawl across the walls and ceiling, connecting distant hives.
Travel through the Lost Lands is dangerous. Not only is the exact location of the Ziggurath only a guess but the things that live beneath the sway of the cold-spreading Blossom are hostile and hungry. Slippery ice, freezing temperature and uneven terrain make battling such does foes a lethal affair. There is no light in these tunnels beyond what explorers bring and a few murderous lures by bioluminescent hunters.
Lost our first today. We aren't sure where he went and there was no scream. I wanted to wait, but Sōtari Q'in would not have it. It pains me to leave a comrade behind... But in my heart, I know that she is right. Waiting would only make us the next meal.
Approaching The Ziggurath
I'm no longer sure how much time has passed or how far we have traveled. We count our progress not in miles now, but in corpses. We have lost several but this time we have retrieved their masks. Each one slain have not gone quietly and made their clan proud. The creatures here are strange... Some of them seem like they are made of ice but bleed when struck. Other look more like bone or mold bristling with frost. I almost lost hope when I saw the thaw. When we saw stone again for the first time in what feels like an eternity, I thought we had gone in a circle and come back out of the Lost Lands... But our light reached that yawning abyss.The Ziggurath is believed to be in the center of a titanic cavern. Every entrance into it is clogged with ice and populated by especially vicious beasts. Where the Blossoms hold sway, the tunnels bristle with ice-pikes and sharp protrusions, pointing inwards to the cave. Despite their heavy presence, the frost ends after only a dozen yards into the cave and explorers can see the black rock of the caves again. The ceiling of the cavern is uneven, dipping low enough in places to be seen in the light of a torch. In others, it disappears upwards into darkness.
At least with these monsters around, we've had plenty of meat.
The edge is perfectly straight, like the blade of a good sword. It continues beyond our light in both directions. Kai suggested taking a torch and running the length to get an idea, but I didn't want anyone to wander off alone. It is like a staircase, save for its size... If we wanted to descend, we would have to climb each step. I thought I heard a voice. We traveled along the edge until we reached one of the corners. There is a column here, but I don't recognize the inscriptions. Not that I think any of the other city-states could have made anything like this. Least of all in a place like this. Still, it is cause for hope. The cold does not spread here. If we could determine why, perhaps we could halt its slow consumption of our lands. If I could... My name would be remembered for eternity and my mask would be placed in the Halls of the Exarch. If.Monumental in size, the Ziggurath's step are each taller than a man. Columns cap each corner and a large carved slope descends into the Ziggurath from them. It is made from the same stone found in the cavern, a hard black rock with veins of ore and crystal throughout, polished to gleam. Age has eaten through the descent in places, broken apart by quakes and where the ceiling has collapsed from high above. Arch-ways hint of doors that lead into the structure itself. No one has yet been able to determine how deep the Ziggurath is or what lies within it.
Others have heard it too. Voice, growls... Seen creatures that move in the darkness below. We are not alone here. Are they guards or are they the builders of this place? We held council on our next course. Some wanted to return with the news of what we had already found, but it was settled by vote. We will begin descending after a short rest.
The Heart of Darkness
Q'in is dead. We are lost. I am lost. This will be my final entry. Kai is the fastest among us and will carry this missive back to Dhanû and tell of what we have found. Perhaps this war is not so hopeless after all - there are powers in this world that defy the spread of cold we have seen. We will descend into the Ziggurath to find answers. If we die, remember our names and sing of our glories. It will not be for naught.
The Lost Lands The Ziggurath is hidden within the Lost Lands, a part of the Sheoin region of the Inner Shell. This part of Araea lies deep beneath the blasted Surface, below uncountable miles of stone and tunnel. The Lost Lands are wracked by snow and ice, conquered by frost-spreading hive-creatures known as Blossoms. Only the Ziggurath is beyond their power. Read More About The Lost Lands
Blossoms of Frost and BoneThe cold in the Lost Lands comes from creatures called Blossom, amalgamated abominations of living ice, bone and carapace. None look like the other and their true nature is still debated by the scholars and slayers of Dhanû. When they gather into numbers, they form alien gardens of living ice and creeping corruption. Read More About Blossoms
Expeditions into the Lost Lands are most commonly launched by the Imaður, expert monster-hunters of Dhanû. These raids try to destroy Blossoms when they can and simply cull the hordes when they can not. Such attacks are perilous ventures and therefore bring great honor and prestige.
Into the DeepSome speculate that the Ziggurath leads directly into the Far Deep, the deepest region of Araea yet found. The Far Deep is an alien world where humanity holds little ground and monstrous abominations hold court. It is a world of titanic caverns and vibrant, vicious wildlife. The cynic thinks there is no hope or explanation to the Blossoms' reluctance to approach such a pathway - only the fear of a superior predator.
Gods & DevilsWith the return of at least some fragmented information about the Ziggurath, legend and myth have once again begun to storm around the vast descent. Some hold it to be the house of gods or devils, or the remnant of lost civilizations. Other think the infamous and blasphemous mole-men of legend make the Ziggurath their warren.
The Ziggurath is not empty. Something waits within it. Those who return still feel its voice in their dreams, like a razor across their mind.