The Gate of Dust
The gates had led to a castle, once. Millennia ago, by my count. Now? Now, the gates lead only to dust.Towards the easternmost point of Iskaldhal, balancing precariously between the territories of Fjolkandr, Restruja, and K'zudh Ev, lies an abandoned stone archway untouched by the ravages of time but for the countless vines curling around its base. Though travellers might presume it unconnected to the wasteland lying just past its entrance, the locals know otherwise. There is a reason they do not dare step through it. Those who do are often lost.
In the Distant PastThough the dwarves of Gildómar claim that the Heartforge of Iskaldhal birthed them as the first and only true inheritors of Iskaldhal, this claim ignores all others who once dwelt upon the frozen continent. In the years preceding the War of the Arcane, there was one human settlement that defied all odds. Though the gods had stolen away their arcane casters, the Timeless - as they are now remembered - were not daunted. Their magics and machinery gave them a staying power that few others possessed in that hopeless time, and drove them to push past the boundaries of magic as most mortals saw it. This decision was, perhaps, a mistake. It was the Timeless who first extended their arms into the endless well of chronomancy. Time magic, for those less versed in arcane linguistics. They sought to alter whispers of history to benefit their future descendants, never realising the extent of the danger inherent in the Dimension of Time. It was not Brigh's attention they drew, despite their veneration of the Whisper in Bronze. Nor did Shyka, fey goddess of entropy and time, care to watch over their careless attempts. Perhaps it was worse that they did succeed in their attempts. The whispers they drew from the Outer Planes in their success were ones full of praise. Ones of temptation, of further success. But what else can be expected from the first stirrings of a waking Outer God? They had the attention of Yog-Sothoth, and though they did not know it, they delighted in his powers.
It was that folly of man's own lust for power that first spurred the War of the Arcane - and later, the Worldrend.
The FallThe Timeless grew prosperous over the final days of their Era. Few others could challenge them when it came to technological prowess: if any DID try, they would find themselves defeated by new machinery and spells not yet invented. It was their attempt to stymie the growth of Gildómar that brought this breach of interdimensional etiquette to the attention of the rest of the heavens. But the Timeless were not so easily destroyed by simple deific will; not when they had drunk so deeply of the Lurker's power. They wrested power equal to that of Champions by reaching across the timelines, struggling for dominance against their true rulers without any concern for Time's integrity. This spurred many deities that might have otherwise remained neutral into acting for the sake of the mortal realm. The creation of Terra Arcana, a planet of imprisonment and containment, shattered their control by splitting their abilities across two planets unable to make contact. From there, it was a simple matter for the Outer Planes to repair the damage dealt. Or so they had thought.
From the primal insanity raging across the Sunari Wilderness to the twisted plane-crossed hellscape of Tenaerul, the Worldrend dealt Istralar a blow unlike any other. Even now, fragments of Terra Arcana pierce our star. And even now, time has forsaken the Gate.The story of the Worldrend has been told thousands of times over. An imprisoned deity, allegedly He who began much of the conflict, breaking free of his planetary prison and necessitating the direct intervention of the Pantheons lest two stars be destroyed - it was an apocalyptic act, and one with everlasting consequence. For the Timeless - for the Gate of Dust - their fragmented existence became caught on shards of paradoxical time. The actions taken to preserve the lives of those upon Istralar also, unintentionally, safeguarded them from destruction. But by this point, they were not living: only whispers of those trapped in memory remained. To mitigate their effect, the multiple deities capable of caretaking the threads of Time bound the Timeless to the only lingering remnant of their civilisation: the Gateway. Now, the Forsaken Grove lingers as an area of failed time. It calls out to decay as a clear-belled beacon, summoning to it all manner of living things that join their comrades as nothing but ash. However, the locals do find it odd - on some nights, they can almost swear that they can hear whispers from the Gate, promising them the power to restore the Gateway to its full glory...
Aside from the arch marking the grove's entrance, the Forsaken Grove is an expansive and largely featureless field of ashes and dust. The remnants of petrified trees thrust their way up from the entombed ground, reaching for the sun in a manner reminiscent of their living descendants. Small hills litter the otherwise flat area, though what lies beneath is unknown - perhaps the hillock was naturally there, or perhaps the layers of ruin cover remnants of times long past.
Fauna & Flora
Nothing living grows past the Gate. Those living creatures that find their way into the Grove soon realise their folly - simply standing on that field of dead things summons up feelings of despair as their mortality is cast into sharp contrast. Too often, this despair overwhelms them. Their bodies do not remain long, instead falling into the decay as if they had always been there. Some fools manage to escape, usually through sheer luck rather than any sort of willpower. Their minds are haunted by what they have seen, whether their eyes recognised it or not. Very few truly shake the spectre of lost time with any permanence - but they do not return, and they do not decay so unnaturally.