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Altosphere: The Loftwinds

The sphere known as the Loftwinds is the highest layer of the atmosphere that can sustain human life, and only then for those with a steady and disciplined temperament. Travel to these parts is fraught with risks. Foremost is Iscario's Curse, which threatens cardiac arrest for those who cannot maintain a slow and rhythmic breathing pattern.   The gales of the altosphere are steadier and more predictable than those of the Clearsky, but far stronger than in any of the strata below. It takes a great deal of power for an ayrship to make even modest progress when flying against the current, though skilled galers can also use the speed their advantage. The ayrlands that skim across the Sayrsea are small, rare, lush, fragile, and fast. Few can hold up more than a humble village without immediately sinking down to the Nuvesea. And that is only the second most compelling reason to avoid wearing heavy metal armor - or really any metal at all.   With the ribbons of levinlight swirling and crackling not far above, carrying metal is practically a plea to gods to be struck dead by an electrifying shock. Despite the dangers, the Loftwinds are a tempting destination for explorers who seek potent manna-enriched alchemical reagents, rare spices, shimmersand, glimmerglass, and lumestone.   With an unparalleled ability to stay on the wing for weeks on end, colossal archaves rule the skies, roaming large territories. The tribesfolk who tame and hunt the birds are wary of, if not outright hostile, to groundwalkers. Still, violence is avoided here except by those who have spent many years training themselves to suppress a hurried heartbeat when one's fight-or-flight instincts would kick in.

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Cover image: by Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis (PD)

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