Life blooms around the river Iteru, a heartvein of the Argosian Desert and the longest river of the Morning Realm. Iteru begins in a basin high in the Boiling Mountains and winds its way south, forming a natural border between Argos and Heartia, until it finally spills out into the ocean in Olbia. The river's floodplains are the only viable farmland in the desert and of great spiritual importance to the people of Argos. Iteru is hailed as the birthplace of humanity and civilization and even in some regions worshipped as a mother-goddess. During late antiquity Iteru was also infamously the hoard of the legendary dragon Vritra until her defeat by the Philosopher Kings.
|1565 mi ( 2520 km )
At the Source
At the root of the Boiling Mountains several streams join together and rise into the great river Iteru. Some of these streams consist of ice cold meltwater from the glaciers of the Worldspine, while others are mineral springs from deep inside the earth. The spring water of Iteru is considered an especially potent source of living water, an important ingredient for traditional Potions of Healing and modern Elixirs of Health.
A Disrupted Food ChainThe highland desert is cold and arid. A few hardier plants push their way up through the gravel or cling to small pockets of dirt in the craggy rock. Once, the argosian highlands were home to grand herds of auroch, great bovine beasts. These herds are rare today as most have been taken into captivity. This has lead to the highlands being plagued by aggressive rocs now that their typical hunting grounds have depleted.
Lifeblood of a DeityThe dawn drew to a close when the first of gods pierced the heart of their lover-opponent with a spear. Two streams of blood spilled out from the wound. The hot blood, or lava, curdled in Ea's chest and became the Boiling Mountains, while the cold blood ran down their body to become Iteru. And where the hot blood crested to stone against the cold blood so too was humanity born, as foam and flesh.
Water is a precious resource in the Argosian desert. None of the great cities of Argos would exist without the three rivers are known as the heartveins. Iteru is the greatest of these heartveins, running down the very center of the desert. On its banks are the former city-states of Isetur and Urdjet. Indeed, water is so valued in the desert that modern dracologists believe that Iteru itself was the hoard that spawned Vritra, a legendary dragon who devastated the desert during the late antiquity.
Floodplain FaunaWhile the fauna of the desert migrate to Iteru and the other heartveins to drink and socialize, an entire unique ecosystem exists in the waters and floodplains. Hippopotamuses and crocodiles wade the waters among the reeds and river lilies. The turquoise feathers of the eblis crane are highly desired, but only those naturally shed. The eblis are seen as daughters of the personified mother-godess Iteru, and harming one is said to curse a family for seven generations.
The Rise and fall of Vritra
The first sightings of Vritra, the great dragon, was shortly after the collapse of the First Kingdom of Argos. Promerus the Immortal, the last king of the first kingdom, lived for over a century and outlived all of his heirs. Without a clear successor, the Kingdom fractured, engulfing the desert in civil war. Rumours of a massive shadow enveloping villages began to spread. Anyone outside, livestock or human, would disappear. These rumours were interpreted by some as a creative description of the consequences of war, but with the sighting of a enormous lizard it soon became clear what the people of the desert were facing.
As Vritra grew, so too did the river Iteru, which overtopped its banks and destroyed the homes of countless farmers. Oddly enough the displaced farmers left for the highlands and built a dam and artificial lake. Vritra returned the farmers with a message. If anyone displeased her or threatened her reign, Iteru would flow no more. As the city-states rose to the dominant power in the desert, the philospher kings of these city states decided to work together to defeat Vritra. Led by Iset and Djet, rulers of Isetur and Urdjet, the philosopher kings were able to defeat Vritra and restore access to Iteru.
Sea of Grass
The soil of the vast steppes of the Argosian South has historically been too poor to support agriculture, but recent innovations in the production of fertilizer and in druidcraft has seen the grasslands, especially those around Iteru, slowly converted into farmable land. In some regions this has caused the displacement of native semi-nomadic cultures. Agreements to preserve culturally important sites and grazing lands are under negotiation.
WildlifeThe grasslands are an ocean of tall grass and short shrubs. The occasional sparse tree dots the landscape. Most large animals, such as the wild horse, tend to form herds to protect themselves against predators like wargs and the southern griffon. This stretch of Iteru is home to vibrantly colored flamingos, but also the reed lizards which ambush animals seeking water.
The Lone TreeThe sight of the lone grassland tree has captured the imaginations of many. Some cultures in the grasslands believe these lone trees house powerful spirits that must be appeased, while others believe the trees serve as a link between the gods and the people. It is a common religious symbol in the steppes. The tree is seen as a symbol of the link between the celestial divine, and the earthly mundane. The branches stretch up towards the stars, while the roots dig firmly into the mundane earth. They also serve as a symbol of transcendent individuals, those rare few who define a decade or even a century.
As the river winds further south, the grasslands give way to lightly forested lands. The woodlands around Iteru are incredibly rich, full of valuable hardwoods and enough precipitation to support crops since the beginning of recorded history. Many of the inhabitants are halflings, who fell trees and farm cleared land. Aside from the groves protected by druidic cults, the influence of humans can be seen throughout the entire area.
WildlifeThe decidious forests of the southern coast are marked by a dry and a wet season. Vines wrap around the trunks of the prized ebony trees, whose dark hardwood fetches a high price at markets across the realm. Dwarf bears can be seen hunting for fish or scavenging for fruits, and small packs of cockatrices can be rarely spotted in the further reaches.
Iteru is an important vein up into the southern half of the continent, so whoever controls it's outlet has been powerful. Extensive mud flats and mangrove thickets make navigating large ships up Iteru difficult, but plenty of barges visit the port city Olbet on the far east of the river mouth, bringing goods to be loaded on ocean-faring ships for transport to the far reaches of the southern continent. Fishing has traditionally been a key source of food for people living here as the saline soil makes farming difficult.