Planus has to be the flattest place on all of Awldor. But there are hidden gems across the continent, if you know where to look
City of the Underforest. Gem of Embercrest. These are but two of the nicknames for trade city of Ishnanor.
This city, set in the partial-subterranean Velzue cavern delta in the back of Embercrest Bay, is located on the southern side of the Planus Continent. Ishnanor is unique in many aspects, one of which is its architecture and design.
Ishananor is built atop the ruins of an Ancient’s Temple and astrological observation center that sank, along with the surrounding rain forest, into a miles long cavern system of lava tubes after an earthquake. No records survive that indicate if the earthquake was a part of the Great Collapse, a side effect of it, or simply an unfortunate event for the temple and surrounding complex.
To this day the majority of the ruins remain underwater beneath the massive lake that formed as a result of the collapsed landscape, Elisan lake. This is also the lake that surrounds the above ground district of Ishnanor and the remaining structures of the ruins.
The rain forest, despite such a disaster, found a way to survive. Today it thrives in the underground lava tunnels of Velzur cavern that connect the underground areas of central lake to the northeastern shore of Elisan lake.
Ishnanor began as a set of trading outposts set on the shores of the ruin encrusted island in Elisan lake. As the lake is partially shielded by naturally curved cliffs on the side that faces Embercrest Bay and the Spiria Gulf, it provided a safe harbor for ships traveling along the coast or seeking a location to take shelter from storms or seasonal migrations of giant devilfish.
The first ships that set anchor there soon discovered, to their surprise, a set of centaur tribes that live in the Tugart Marshlands on the northeastern side of Elisan lake. Negotiations were tense but before long a budding trade system had taken root.
In the century since the first settlers set up an outpost, Ishnanor grew quickly. It expanded into the ruins, exploring and re-purposing them for the city’s needs. What could not be refurbished, was taken down and rebuilt. This has resulted in a mix of both modern and ancient architectural styles.
Even today, statues from the Ancients remain. However, these are said to have originally been the peak of tall towers of the long submerged temple below the water.
Rise of a Trade City
Ishnanor expanded as it became home to various merchant guilds and mercenary companies looking for a politically neutral location to call home. This influence the governing of the city itself, contributing to its strong neutral political stance when it comes to the region of the delta in that section of Planus.
Exploration of the Ancient temple has always been a ‘city project’. However, ‘ruin poaching’ laws were never implemented as the local merchant guild recognized that exploring the ruin, and refurbishing it, provided a steady supply of antiquities for trade and allowed Ishnanor to expand.
This took a leap ahead with the discovery of the lava tubes of the Velzur caverns and the Underforest beneath the city. These lava tubes, and the unique ecology of the Underforest proved easier to develop than refurbish the deeper levels of the ruin, especially those deeper below the waterline.
Rumors of something having taken up residence in the deep bowels of the sunken temple provided the last push for the Ishnanor Council to seal off the ruins for development. At which point, it was only natural to expand the city into the lava tubes of the Velzur caverns.
This continued until the stone masons discovered tunnels connecting back to the surface. Specifically, caves near the shoreline in the Tugart Marshlands.
Trade goods flow from one side of Ishnanor to the other from trade ship to caravan on the Tugard Marshlands. If there was any doubt what the lifeblood of Ishnanor is, that should dispel it.
The oldest part of the city, its first district, is surrounded by the massive Elisan lake. Formed and fed by the waters of Embercrest Bay and the rivers of the Tugart Marshlands, the lake is unusually clear in many seasons. In early spring, during the devilfish migrations across the bay, the waters of the lake turn clear enough that some of the submerged upper towers of the Ancient’s temple may be seen below the water.
While it can be seen, the depth of the lake is so great, no current means exists to reach those buildings and galleries. Also, some report seeing unusual motion in the depths below. As if something, or someone, may have taken residence below and may not want visitors. Yet, no one has confirmed any of those rumors to date.
Toward the shoreline, particularly the northeastern shore, a line of jagged tears and rocky vents break the surface of the water. These wide gaps allow sunlight and weather to stream into the Velzur caverns and its Underforest.
The vents are ancient potions of an extinct volcano where the cooling lava formed natural curved rock as a natural barrier to flooding from the lake. This has been further expanded and reinforced over the years by Ishnanor stone masons.
Elisan Lake also is one of the major assets of Ishnanor from water to fishing to being the home of merhorse ranches and the floating bog island citrus farms.
Ishnanor is divided into three major districts, each forming over time as the city expanded to what it is today. Even though there is the usual sense of class and status associated with a particular district, each district of the city plays an important role in the city itself.
The city begins at Port Side, the upper level of the city in the middle of Elisan lake. Next would be the Underside, where the city expanded down into a network of ancient, extinct lava tubes that lay beneath Elisan lake itself. Last would be Marshside, the marsh and swamp on the northeast shore of Elisan lake, where the ancient lava tubes touched the surface.
As Ishnanor sits in and under a massive lake, flooding is always a concern. Ishnanor stone masons specialize in architecture and construction techniques for methods to control and mange flooding. Also, multiple series of defensive walls form dividers between the districts.
These walls could be used for defense in case of invasion of the city. However, their main purpose is to contain parts of the massive underground aqueduct that manage the flow of fresh water and runoff to prevent flooding in the city districts.
The infamous Windtracers maintain their headquarters here as well as their Museum of Ancient History. Their headquarters is in a refurbished tower complex where Port Side district connects to Underside district. The museum is in the Port Side district.
Windtracer training takes place in all districts at well-known locations across the city. This provides access to different environments for training of new Windtracer Company recruits.
This is the central marketplace, and what some would say is the soul of the city. Originally in Port Side district, they moved it down to Underside district once Marshside was opened to access from overland caravans and centaur tribes.
This is the city’s main location for trade goods and commerce. Here goods from across the coast cities and the scattered inland cities of the Planus continent can be found. Grassland silks, jewelry, food, potions and more can be found for sale or barter here.
As with any bustling marketplace, another great trade is also practiced: thievery. Organized thievery is forever a concern of for the Ishnanor City Council. The city watch keeps a firm eye on the activity in Underside district more than any other. Naturally, this has produced a mixed reaction from merchants. Some welcome the additional security, others chafe at its presence, claiming it scares away customers.
However, the city watch maintains its vigilance. They aren’t able to stamp out the thieves' guilds, but they can keep them enough under control that the district is still considered safe for visitors.
A unique form of ranching, it was an outgrowth of Ishnanori locals needing a faster means to travel the lake than by boat for emergencies or to patrol the waters. Smaller boats are efficient but are vulnerable during devilfish migrations.
The enormous devilfish, with their naturally irate temperament, mistake the motion of the smaller boats for prey. This has led to many longboats or smaller fishing craft being grabbed by a devilfish’s barbed tentacles and yanked underwater.
However, for reasons still not fully understood, devilfish have a natural aversion to the merhorse. The dire-sized giant seahorses have no reservation in swarming an invading devilfish in large numbers. A herd of merhorses can drive off, or subdue, a devilfish in seconds to a minute.
City of the Underforest, Gem of Embercrest
Standing On History
Ishnanor's foundation is an Ancient's temple. Based on what has been recovered and studied, the temple was possibly a temple to the sun or a place where the Ancient Order studied the seasonal movement of the stars due to the number of star charts that have been recovered.
One unusual mystery is that the slightly warmer than normal temperature of Elisan Lake itself seems to originate from the ruins at the bottom of the lake. Theories range from a pocket of elementals to a device of the Ancient Order that could generate heat or energy.
As that level of the ruins is beyond reach for now, it still remains an unsolved mystery.
Community and Demographics
Ishnanor has a moderate amount of people calling it home. A good portion of the population is temporary as they either stay for a short time before leaving with either the merchant ships that travel the coast, or the Underforest caravans that wind their way to the centaur tribes.
The city’s community is a multi-ethnic melting pot, with smaller communities of cultures scattered across the city’s population.
However, these cultures are all considered part of the tapestry of the city’s unique culture. So it’s more common to refer to someone from here as ‘Ishnanori’.
One note is the tiefling population. They have a higher presence here that other locations. Reasons behind this vary with group or individual.
However, an underlying theme is that Ishnanor’s relatively neutral political stance that stems from its ‘safe harbor’ roots is attractive for many tieflings looking for a fresh start.