The Painted Plateau
"Soaring above the hot desert sand, the giant eagle shifted nearly imperceptibly underneath us. Braving my fear of heights for a moment, I looked down. "Below us was a brilliant sight. Sand stretched to the horizon in every direction, with only the occasional dune to break the monotony of the desert. But the colours! The gold colour of the sand was slowly fading to blue in the dusk light, causing a beautiful ocean of indigo, red and orange to be revealed. Oh! The vertigo forced me to look away, but the sight will be engrained onto my eyes for years to come!" ~A Lithekin visitor to Birbaran."Beauty" is the most common word used to describe the desert landscape of the Painted Plateau. Located near the western coast of Algonas on the world of Dreandril, the arid landscape takes its name from the iridescent nature of the stone here. Whether they be spire-like rock formations, large stone mesas riddled with caves, or even the stone houses of the Featherkin, Smoothkin and Tuskkin, the stone here is multicoloured and full of small glimmering geodes. The other is "deadly". Water is scarce in the desert, and what few settlements exist have learned to do with very little. The destruction of Wretched Penumbra in the nearby Paralto Mountains littered the region with debris, including some old spires of the evil city; occasionally, horrors escape from these places and wreak havoc. Bandits and criminals from the Silver Coast also often push inland, hiding from the authorities of the Malkae'o Confederacy and the Republic of Zaria to the west and the United Kingdoms of Jask and Reil to the east. In short, the beauty of the Painted Plateau can also be a trap.
Points of InterestDue to the arid nature of the landscape, most of it is barren sand and the occasional rock formation. Despite that, several important landmarks and areas of interest can be found:
- The Ruins of Veria: this Malkae'o city was destroyed in a raid by the Zarzarins centuries ago. The trauma of that event was so strong that ghosts now walk the city street in hordes, attacking anyone who is brave enough (or stupid enough) to breach its ruined walls.
- Kalxî: this "knifelike" structure is actually a dark tower of Wretched Penumbra that sliced clean through a rock formation, cutting it in two and riddling it with rubble and artifacts from that ancient time. The canyon created by the event is believed to be infested with corrupted creatures of the Zarkul Empire, so travellers give it a wide berth.
- Marawê: every year, the festival to the goddess Wiwê is held at this natural ring of red stone. Known as the Quaver Competition, it brings minstrels and musicians from all over Algonas to celebrate new songs.
- Alkha Canyon: bandits now infest the abandoned husk of the Zarzarin city, using the canyon's natural defences to ambush travellers or to hide away from the law.
- Birbaran: the great city of the Featherkin is located in the approximate center of the Plateau. Ruled by its Avian Council and protected by the elite Darkwing Cavalry, this series of caves and caverns is believed to be caused by a dormant volcano deep beneath the sand.
InhabitantsThe Painted Plateau is filled with humanoids who live here for one reason or another. Some of them, like the bandits of the city of Alkha, are escaping the law of their old lands, trying to steal and loot to survive. Adventurers find their way out here to search for gold and treasures from many of the Zarkul Empire ruins in the region.
The Vibrant Desert
GeodesMany who mine or collect rocks often make trips to the region to collect some of its rare geodes. These bundles of crystals and gems are plentiful in the region, making them a common target for treasure seekers or prospectors looking to make a quick profit. Some of them are even magical in nature, making Painted Geodes (as they are known) very common magical foci throughout western Algonas.
An Arid LandscapeBeyond the few oases and mountain holds of the Featherkin, the desert is almost completely lifeless. Large stretches of yellow-orange sand fill the expanses of the region, occasionally broken up by a few rock formations, a clump of shrivelled cacti, or a large sinkhole surrounded by vultures and other scavenging birds. Only those who must cross these dried-up deserts have to, and they hopefully know to pack enough water and food for the trip...
"Beware the glimmer of a gem, for a snake might hide underneath it." ~ Featherkin proverb
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