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The Maelstrom

The Storm at the Center of Creation

The story of the Maelstrom is a long one. Longer than just about anything else on this whole planet, in fact. But those are sometimes the best sorts of stories, don't you agree? I can give you a much-abridged version though, to ensure it's still the same year by the time I finish. There was, surprisingly, a time when the Maelstrom didn't exist. Sure, there were storms - the occasional hurricane even - but the sky was clear when they passed, and the seas calm. The Del Atar of that time was a cold, inhospitable place. Everything pulled towards death, and the world itself seemed like it would eventually stop, and everything would be still. But that wasn't what the Gods wanted you to see, not your Gods, mind, but the Elder Gods, who spun this all out of emptiness. They knew that everything needed balance: to every push, a pull, to every life, a death. They knew that Del Atar, without something that could bring life, and energy, would inevitably die. And so, they created the Maelstrom. A massive source of Chaos, to combat the Entropy that leeched in from beyond the Multiverse. It worked, too. I was as surprised as anyone, but it turned out to be not a half-bad solution, overall. Worked as a prison in the pinch, too, although I'm getting ahead of myself in that regard.

After the Gods departed, and the young races began to go about their existence, there wasn't much change to be had about for the Maelstrom. It's a bit ironic, the fundamental force of Chaos staying constant, but it did. No one took much interest in it, either, it just... existed, a giant celestial engine, powering everything else. Then, though, came the Elders. They didn't see the Maelstrom in the same way that the other races did - though I suppose that you could say that about almost everything, and still be right. The Elders saw the Maelstrom as what it was, fundamentally: a power source. As their creations demanded more and more energy to fuel, they turned in increasing numbers towards the idea that it might be harnessed. Plans were put in place, research completed, and the beginnings of vast generator arrays were laid, and then, all at once, they stopped. En masse, the Elders turned to their final task, as though some other solution had presented itself.

Everyone knows what happened then, as the current... tensions, illustrate quite well. The Maelstrom is back to being what it always has been, and always should be. Something primal, something powerful, and something that is feared and respected in equal measure. It'll keep turning, and destroying, for as long as Del Atar wanders its way through the Multiverse. But for those who respect it, and who bother to learn about it, it'll share secrets and wonders beyond the dreams of most mortals.

-Karth Poshment

Geography

The Islands

For most of those foolish or unfortunate enough to call the Maelstrom home, the islands that dot its interior are all there is to know. Due to the near-constant storms, even the few islands that remain consistently above water are stripped of all loose material, leaving them as bleak, rocky outcroppings that will shred ships just as easily as they'll allow them to land. Despite it all though, there are those who refuse to give in, and more than a couple of the forbidding islands are home to bands of pirates and privateers. Those who make a habit of traveling the Maelstrom often occasionally return with tales of... other sorts of islands. Islands where the storm seems to be unable to touch, and where lush plant-life grows in every nook and cranny. Despite the island's appearances, those who have encountered them also say that they feel uneasy around them, and none have ever dared to set foot on them, or, at least, none who have ever returned.

The Depths

In those places where sunlight can't reach, deep beneath the storms and waves, one can find the depths. It is cold, and still, that far underwater, but there are still beings that call it home, and few of them are things any sane being would ever want to meet. Thankfully, they spend most of their time in a perpetual search for food, or in a deep slumber, but when they awake, their hunger is insatiable, and they rarely return to the depths willingly. Those who can find a way travel the depths - and return safely afterward - often come back with stories of near-alien landscapes, and strange, indescribable structures, some natural... some not. Whatever wonders, and horrors, await those who venture into the deep, they should be certain to tread carefully, lest they awake the leviathans that slumber in the dark.

The Sunken Cities

Existing on the line between the islands and the depths are shallow planes of land, sometimes submerged, sometimes just barely above the waves. These plateaus hold perhaps the strangest pieces of geography in the Maelstrom: the sunken cities. Constructed, or, at least, inhabited, by the Elders, they were once capable of holding back the ocean around them, but since their disappearance, they have been reclaimed. It is a testament to the strength of their construction that they have managed to survive at all, despite their waterlogged state. Their purpose, however, remains a mystery. Great constructs patrol the waters around the cities, retreating beneath the sand when those waters recede. The cities' interiors are no better, defended by constructs, and, as some people whisper, more dangerous horrors. Still, there are great spoils to be had, or so the stories say: technologies all but forgotten to the rest of the world, and wonderous relics that wield power lost after the Elder's disappearance.

Fauna & Flora

The Shallows

Despite the horrific tales of long-lost nightmares and fish the size of castles, much of the Maelstrom's sealife is relatively mild. Hugging the small patches of 'dry' land are areas of raised seabed, where countless creatures make their homes. Most of these creatures are relatively normal, by the standards of Del Atar, and while they grow in larger numbers than anywhere else on the planet, they needn't be feared outright. The normalcy of these shallower regions can be dangerously calming, as many find out too late. The predator's that roam them are found in larger sizes, with greater numbers, and in some places even the seaweed seems twisted, holding onto ships, and people, with a terrifying strength. For the savvy. the Shallows offer a place of retreat, where one can resupply and ready themselves for the dark things that wait elsewhere, but for most, all the Shallows hold are hollow promises and the salty depths, waiting to swallow them forever.

The Shifting Isles

The largest, and highest, of the islands within the Maelstrom are able to support biosphere's that are nearly identical to those found elsewhere on Del Atar. The others though, which can disappear beneath the waves as easily as they can reappear, support a much stranger variety of organisms, few of which can be found anywhere outside of the Maelstrom. Strange kelp-like trees grow in thick forests on some, while tentacled creatures dredge the muddy soil of others before they recede once more. In a place where it can be hard to tell whether an island will be in the same place from one day to the next, many of the islands marked on pirate maps are identified simply by what lives on them. Most such creatures are docile, accustomed to living on the edge of two worlds, where few things can prey upon them. The ones that aren't, however, rarely leave survivors, and fewer still of those that escape can survive at the mercy of the storm.

The Slumbering Leviathans

Far beneath the light of the surface, in the places where the waters are still despite the storm above, sleep the leviathans of the Maelstrom. Colossal creatures scarred by the passage of many uncounted, unkind years, turning endless circles, waiting for a time where they can escape from the darkness and taste the warmth of the shallows. Most are similar to creatures on the surface, like the kraken, but some are far older, far stranger things. Venturing into the depths that such creatures live in invites almost certain death, but the wrecks and salvage that their lairs contain can bolden the hearts of even the most fearful, but a bold heart and strong will hold no candle to the horrors that await.

Natural Resources

The Storm Shoals

No one knows where the storm shoals come from. Some believe they're the result of natural growth in locations where predators are scarce, near the center of the Maelstrom. Others are of the opinion that they come from the Maelstrom itself, spawned by the chaotic energies that power the great storm. In any case, they exist and are truly a sight to behold. Schools of fish, millions and millions strong, often stretching miles in length, all moving and pulsating as one. To the unready, the shoals can be dangerous, capsizing ships and pummeling anyone who has the misfortune of falling overboard to death. To others, they represent a golden opportunity, where one can catch more fish than they could ever use, and many brave or foolish fishermen venture into the outer edges of the Maelstrom to try to find one. While they rarely leave the storm's boundaries, one occasionally finds its way outside, circling and swimming until its numbers fall and it disappears.

The Flotsam Armadas

Most of the ships that sink in the Maelstrom are broken apart, and their remnants scattered across its floor. Some, though, remain buoyant, either through their own construction or through some magic of the Maelstrom. These floating wrecks seem almost alive, moving and shifting across the storm, searching for others who dare trespass in the boundaries of the storm. When another ship sinks, the two collide and merge, the tangled mess of pieces growing larger and more terrifying. There seems to be no limit to the size one can grow to, and according to the stories of those who have escaped them, some seem to hold entire fleets, each piece animated with anger unlike anything else on Del Atar. As with most things, though, the great danger predicates a great reward. The ships still hold all the treasures they had when they were wrecked, which are worth fortunes upon fortunes, if they can be retrieved. Still, some claim, in the midst of their shouts of insanity, that they could see figures on the decks of the flotsam armadas, still ready to dispatch any who attempted to board them. Perhaps those are just the ravings of madmen, but there's little other explanation for why some ships leave the Maelstrom in perfect condition, save for the fact that their crews are slaughtered, and their cargo looted.

The Fruits of Chaos

The rarest, and most sought after, resource in the Maelstrom are Chaos Seeds. There are places within the storm where the walls of the Multiverse grow thin enough that pure, unmitigated Chaos can leak through, coalescing its energy into small, intensely bright pearls. These pearls are filled with energy beyond the wildest dreams of most and can be harnessed in all manner of rituals, spells, machines, and other, more sinister acts. Unfortunately for all those who want to use them, the Seeds are almost incredibly difficult to find, as they tend to exist in the places where the seas are the roughest, the creatures are the largest, and the fickle winds of fate are at their most agitated. Even when a venture can find some, getting them out of the Maelstrom can be even more difficult. The Seeds tend to be guarded by creatures that have been tainted by their Chaos, and such beings are fiercely protective of them. The Seeds also become unstable as they are moved towards areas where the fabric of the Multiverse is stronger, making it impossible to transport them outside of the Maelstrom without specially constructed and well-warded cargo holds, lest the energy contained within it be released all at once.

Myths of Creation

The Maelstrom plays a part in almost every religion, every belief, and every legend. For some, it symbolizes creation, for others, destruction, but there are none who believe it to be unimportant. Of course, most of the stories are just that, stories. But some, some seem different. To any who listen to the tellers of such tales, a strange feeling occurs, like the feeling of wonder that follows the witnessing of one of the Gods. Those tales are older, and stranger, than any of the ones told by priests or lords, and few dare to spread them. They tell of the calm at the center of the Maelstrom, where the Gods first stepped onto Del Atar, and of an Artifact that can guide mortals through the storm. They tell of a power beyond even that which turns the Maelstrom, and the fate of those who try to harness it. To some, they are warnings; reminders to stay well within the confines of civilization, for fear of losing yourself. For the rare few who feel the call of adventure, however, they are an open invitation, that they might come to understand the storm that has raged at the heart of creation for as long as Del Atar has existed.

Alternative Name(s)
The Heart of Del Atar, The Storm
Type
Region

To Own A Storm

Due to the somewhat tenuous situation of permanent settlement within the Maelstrom, and the issue that comes with trying to navigate it with any large degree of success, the Maelstrom remains unclaimed by any major power, and is generally left untouched by their navies. As such, it has become something of a breeding ground for warlords and tyrants, who often claim a handful of the least-submerged islands, and then sail out of the storm, looting and plundering until their death in one violent way or another. While it rarely affects the populace outside of the Maelstrom much, these would-be-strongmen can make traveling through it rather challenging. For those who expect to meet one, a fast ship, or a silver tongue are truly the best of friends.

A World's Center

Given that Del Atar lacks all but the most minimal of a magnetic pole, navigating across it through the use of a traditional compass near-impossible. Thankfully, the Maelstrom creates a perfect substitute for any would-be trader or explorer, with a few minor adjustments to the navigational equipment. A Sanometer - specifically designed and enchanted to react to the presence of primal Chaos - can use the Maelstrom as a fixed point, allowing for all of the measurements that a magnetic pole would allow for. Of course, some cultures have developed other tools and techniques for navigation, which are better or worse depending on the situation they're used in, but the vast majority use Sanometers as their primary tool.


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