A continent of contrast, Austal is dominated by the vast expanse of the Jem’Hal desert on one side and the verdant, lush landscapes of the Kal’Panar Jungle and Alm’Izra wetlands on the other. Life can be found thriving in both, but the harsh life of the desert has always seemed a million miles away from a life lived in the green west.
Split by the Maj’Athar Mountains, the continent of Austal is split into three parts: The majority of the continent is covered by the expanse of the Jem’Hal desert, which stretches over the whole of the north, east and south of Austal. The Jem’Hal is a harsh place to exist, but its isolated oasis do provide enough islands of green to sustain life amongst its dunes and seas of sand. Because it shares a climate with the Kaldara desert , which sits on the opposite side of the Serpent Strait, storm systems that blow up in the region often render the strait a whirling maelstrom of sand, which can be devastating and deadly for any ships unfortunate to be caught up in it. However, it is not just the desert sand that the two areas share. The natives of the Kaldara, the Ma’Jalis share many aspects of their culture with the Jem’Menar people of Austal’s desert regions, and the two have always maintained friendly relations with one another. This has led some scholars to believe that the two peoples were once one, but were divided when one group or the other decided to cross the Serpent Strait. The south-west and west of Austal, by contrast is far more verdant, with the western area being covered in an expanse of rainforest, the Kal’Panar and the south-west being home to an enormous area of wetlands, the Alm’Izra. Life has been able to flourish in these western regions so much more than the rest of the continent through the sheer luck that the majority of the riverine systems that flow down from the Maj’Athar Mountains fall to the west, rather than the north or east. As these areas are more hospitable, the majority of the settlements on the continent can be found here, and the river valleys of the Alm’Izra are heavily cultivated and settled.