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The Corelands

A marvelous painting of pollution

The adequate way to appreciate the beauty of the Corelands is quite similar to the way one would marvel at an exquisite painting...Hold your breath, focus your sight and most important keep a respectful distance.
  Originally known as the "Zahmarian Meadows" the Corelands are quite possibly the most polluted area in the entirety of Cenorad. Being located in the very center of the Vitreous Empire, centuries of being exposed to the efflux of the Shimmering Metropolises have transformed the once sprawling pasture into a toxic hellhole consisting of poisonous swamps, burning bogs, and streams filled with corrosive oils.   Yet similar to a venomous snake or a poisonous toad that attempt to discourage would-be aggressors with striking colors, the Corelands posses their very own mesmerizing beauty that is able to quite easily let one forget that even a short-term exposure to the Corelands noxious air, waters or soil is often enough to reduce one's life expectancy to a handful of minutes.

Geography

Yes, I know it is beautiful, but you know what I would find even more beautiful? Not having to walk around inside of this country-size waste pit.
  The Corelands are if nothing else certainly the most colorful area in all of Cenorad, as nearly every piece of vitrified soil, every patch of viscous sludge, and of course the muddy waters themselves possess their very own unique coloration, courtesy of the alchemical waste products that saturate the entire region.   Similar to the cities of the Vitreous Empire to whom the Corelands owe this interplay of colors, the Corelands are laced with millions of reflective and refractive surfaces, which transform even the most diminutive of light rays into a marvelous spectacle of yet more colors.   This carnival of colors is regularly further enhanced by a great variety of explosive reactions that take place whenever some of the more volatile compounds that soak the soil of the Corelands come in contact with willing reaction partners carried by the foaming waters or the fog-heavy air above them.   Those that are either brave or stupid enough to expose their unprotected noses to the air of the swamps are rewarded with a multiplicity of odors. Besides the usual stench and fetidness that one would expect to find in a walk-in dumpsite, some of the smells are supposedly rather pleasant and carry the sweet aromas of ripe fruits or the pungent aromas of exotic spices. The accuracy of these claims can't sadly be verified as all those that claimed to have smelled these "Mist Perfumes" subsequently either coughed out their lungs, clawed off their skin, or simply burst into flames.  

The Burning Stelaes

  One of the more volatile regions of the Corelands, the Burning Stelaes is a wasteland of backed mud and molten glass, which received its name from the clusters of spongy pillars that are dotted throughout the entire area. At semi-regular intervals, these pillars of kilned foam fill with a light brown liquid that can only be described as "Smouldering Water". Once the liquid has reached a critical concentration it ignites itself in a violent alchemical reaction that creates sky-high bursts of multi-colored flames.   While these eruptions are undoubtedly beautiful to behold any would-be observer would be well advised to keep a respectable distance from the blazing inferno as the burning pillars not only generated more than enough heat to melt even most heat resistant materials in a matter of seconds but also consume every last ounce of breathable air in a half-mile radius around them.  

Field of Heaven's Wrath

  Officially designated as "Longe-Range Testing Site Xillia 5" the Field of Heaven's Wrath serves as a testing ground for various alchemical weapon systems, including some of the heaviest and most destructive weapons that are commonly fielded by the Glass Legions.   Given that these tests are usually performed by Educated Weaponsmiths in order to test the quality of their mass-produced equipment and not by the Guild Alchemists, the area is in actuality one of the safest regions in the entire Corelands as the regular application of high explosive shells, acidic gases, and high-powered light-rays is more than enough to deter even the most vicious predators of the swamps from even coming close to the area.   Furthermore the fact that the area is frequently treated with a creeping barrage of so-called "Reaction Charges" ensures that the reaction potential stored in the alchemical waste within the area is regularly discharged, which prevents the build-up of more destructive reactions that could interfere with the analysis of the firing tests.   While these factors certainly make travel through the area outside of the usual testing times fairly safe, they are no guarantee for safety as some of the swamps creatures have begun to adapt their hunting times the schedules of the tests, and furthermore, there is always the risk of an unscheduled firing test performed by one of the Guild Alchemist that couldn't be bothered to transport their newest invention to the designated testing grounds of their own Guild.  

Sheep's Crossing

  A swampy wetland located in the southern part of the Corelands, the area is primarily known for an irregular event known as "Blast-Freeze". The beginning of the event is signified by a sudden drop in the surrounding temperature as well as a sudden change in the coloration of the usually green-blue water. Roughly two to five minutes after these changes occurred small bundles of intertwined glass fibers will begin to appear within the water that posses a "woolly" appearance thanks to delicate needles of crystallized chemicals trapped within them.   Despite their fluffy appearance, one should refrain from touching these "Sheep-Floes" as they are as fragile as they are explosive and even a small piece of Ice-Wool is more than capable of turning a hand or foot into a jumbled mess of broken bones and scorched flesh. While it is theoretically possible to "defuse" these naturally occurring mines by slowly heating them up, this course of action is highly dangerous as even a single misstep could set off a devastating chain reaction.   While Blast-Freezes usually occur at a relatively low rate during most times of the year, their frequency drastically increases during the warmer months of summer, which effectively prevents any travel through the region and forces travelers to take a dangerous detour through the eastern regions of the Corelands.  

Garden of Gems

  Nowhere within the Corelands or even the entirety of the Vitreous Empire lay beauty and horror closer together as within the Garden of Gems. A former test site for the alchemical experiments of the Saphire Guild, the Garden is a shimmering labyrinth formed from hills of molten mirrors, pillars of fused glass shards, and glittering ponds that containing the remains of vitrified creatures.   Like every good labyrinth, the Garden is home to numerous creatures and monstrosities, that have been either warped by the parasitic glass of the Garden or are born from it. Additional various forms of prototypical Effig-Warriors also wander the Garden in a frivolous attempt to fulfill fragmented orders given to them centuries ago.   While this unholy mixture of mirror maze and monster-show is certainly unsettling, the true horror of the area stems from the simple fact that the Garden is seemingly self-aware, shifting and twisting its paths in order to trap anyone unfortunate to wander into it within its shimmering embrace. What exactly happens to those lost to the Garden is unknown, but most assume that it is most likely far worse than just being torn apart by some swamp-dwelling beast.   To make matters even worse the Garden of Gems is also one of the few places in Cenorad know to be permanently inhabited by the Muli'he, which are the strongest type of Voidborn Monstrosities known to the Miwa. And despite the Vitreous Empire vigorously trying to exterminate them, the unnatural capabilities of the Muli'he ensured that these efforts remained as successful as the attempts to strangulate one's mirror image.

Fauna & Flora

No matter how hard you try to destroy it, life will find a way...and when it does it will most likely try to bite your face off.
  Despite being by far the most polluted area in the entirety of Cenorad, the Corelands are bustling with a menagerie of strange and alien lifeforms that managed to adapt to the extreme conditions of their surroundings. Which once again proves that the forces of evolution won't be stopped by such trivial problems as exploding hailstones or waterholes that ignite everything that comes into contact with them.   Most of these creatures incorporated pieces of alchemical glass into their bodies, which not only offers protection against the countless toxins, acids and flammable oils in their surroundings but also grants them an otherworldly, iridescent beauty.   While most of the swamps creature primarily sustain themselves by feeding upon the alchemical waste surrounding them, few of them are picky enough to spurn a two-legged food source that just so happened to wander into their usual hunting area. And even the creatures that show no interest in expanding their bill of fare, are generally highly territorial or easily irritable.   Given that it has to contend with such creatures on a daily basis it is no wonder that the Flora of the Corelands is rather feisty and employs an impressive arsenal of rather violent strategies in order to quite literally hold the ground they are currently growing on.
Alternative Name(s)
Swamp of a Billion Colors, The Empire's Canvas
Type
Wetland / Swamp
Owning Organization

Walkers of the Swamp

  Despite their hostile nature, the Corelands are inhabited by a tribal society of Miwa. While they generally refer to themselves as the "Zahmaria", they are mostly referred to as the "Swamp-Walkers" by the officials of the Vitreous Empire.   As the former name of the Corelands already hints at, the ancestors of the modern Zahmaria inhabited the area long before a century of pollution turned it into the swampy wasteland it is today.   Due to this, the Zahmaria had enough time to adapt to their changing environment, which resulted in them developing numerous quirks that distinguish them from the Vase-Born inhabitants of the Vitreous Empire.   Besides a notable increase in their resistance to the swamp's poisonous soil, water, and air the most notable quirk of the Zahmaria is the fact that they appear to possess an innate understanding of Alchemy, which greatly aids them in their daily fight for survival in the worlds largest alchemical garbage dump.  

Traversing the Corelands

  Given the immense dangers of traveling even a single mile within the Corelands it is no wonder that the Vitreous Empire was forced to develop various alternative methods of traversing the area, in order to ensure the connection of its various industrial centers located in and around the Corelands.  

Hyladucts

  Gigantic fully enclosed highways that stand high above the toxic marshes and corrosive banks of fog, the Hyladucts are the primary method by which goods and persons are transported between the Shimmering Metropolises.   While generally safe from the beasts and environmental dangers of the Corelands, the Hyladucts are nevertheless regularly patrolled by a specialized subset of the Glass Legions, known as the Bridge Garde, in order to prevent usage of the highways by unauthorized individuals.  

Glass Roads

  The first attempt by which the Vitreous Empire tried to ease travel through the wasteland of their own making, the Glass Roads are canopied streets paved with vitrified cobblestones.   While they offer relative safety from noxious rainfalls and vitriolic mud, they offer little in the way of protection against the ravenous beasts of the Corelands and therefore mandate the company of a substantial escort in order to be traversed safely.   Since the construction of the Hyladucst most Glass Roads have fallen out of use and were subsequently reclaimed by the swamps.  

Wet Paths

  An extensive canal system consisting of the Great Canal and its various side canals the Wet Paths are a complex network of safe waterways that enables the travel between the various Shimmering Metroloises and also serves as the primary naval connection point between the Coreland and the numerous imperial colonies.   Similar to the Glass Roads the canals of the Wet Paths offer adequate protection against most natural dangers of the Corelands, but little if any against the things that dwell within its muddy waters.   Though the size of most imperial vessels that travel along the canals is usually more than enough to keep most predators at bay...usually.  

"Sabatal Gral"

  Literally translating to "Dangerous Ways" the word Sabatal Gral is an umbrella term used to refer to the countless paths utilized by the Swamp-Walkers in order to traverse the Corelands.   Based on the experience of generations of Zahmaria these paths offer relative safety to those that know of their existence and that possess the knowledge to correctly navigate them.  

Expeditions into the swamp

 
If one plans to venture into the Corelands the first thing to do is to reevaluate one's life choices and the second one is to see if one can't manage to send someone else there.
  Expeditions into the deeper areas of the Corelands are understandably rare, yet from time to time exceptional brave, stupid or desperate individuals decide to wander into the asphyxiating haze of the marshes for a variety of reasons.   Some of these exceptions aim to discover and subsequently plunder some of the ancient ruins that have supposedly been swallowed by the swamps, others tried to collect rare alchemical ingredients that were formed under the extreme conditions of the Corlands and yet others try to archive a secret purpose known only to them.   Regardless of their mission, each expedition should be accompanied by at least one Guild Alchemist, as their abilities are flat-out necessary to counteract the many dangers of the swamps.   Furthermore, the transformative powers of an Alchemist are one of the only reliable methods to acquire freshwater, edible food, and most importantly breathable air within the Corelands.   Additionally, the members of Seven Guilds also have access to a great variety of specialized equipment and consumables that greatly increase the overall chance of survival.  

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Cover image: by SusuMa

Comments

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26 Jun, 2021 15:08

"these efforts remained as successful as the attempts to strangulate one's mirror image"   Now that is an image and a beautiful turn of phrase. (As is this whole article! But especially this thought.)

Lead Author of Vazdimet.
Necromancy is a Wholesome Science.
26 Jun, 2021 16:36

Thank you, very happy to hear that :D   Also if one takes the abilities of the Muli'he into account the phrase about strangeling a mirror image makes even quite a lot of sense, as they are essentially a type of Mirror Monster that lurks on the other side of the Mirror.   So while one might not be able to strangulate one's mirror image the reverse might just be possible ^_^

Author of Cenorad ; a bleak-dark sandbox of creativity.
26 Jun, 2021 16:59

That just made it a million times creepier.   I should not be surprised. This is Cenorad. Haha!

Lead Author of Vazdimet.
Necromancy is a Wholesome Science.