The Third Twin
The Spotted Hills
On the north-western hills of Aurestris, a massive steppe extends from the Ogorn Channel to the west around to the northern shores of the Yliri Sea. The fairly constant winds have left the fertile land difficult to work, but not impossible with the right crops. Races that are naturally hardier – like dwarves, giant-kin, and minotaurs – call the Hills home. Most civilization in the Hills is confined to large homesteads, built for a few families, that sit atop hills, with miles between even the closest neighbors. There is no one power or family that claims control over the Hills, though it’s common knowledge that the largest (and only) town is built around a brewery/distillery called The Bronzed Hellion.
The Winding Strands
From a distance, the region to the northeast of the Yliri Sea is unremarkable: vast, empty, and arid, with sparse vegetation and even less wildlife. But hidden on the horizon, there are rivers that have cut deep canyons across the desert, and these canyons are teeming with vibrant life. Many regard the Winding Strands as a natural wonder: a desert, with bits of jungle stuffed in the cracks. In places where two canyons diverge or meet, or even where the canyon is just a bit wider, villages are built into the sides of the canyons themselves, with some dwellings protruding from the sides while others are nestled in the rock of the canyon walls. Many reptilian races call the Winding Strands home, like kobolds, nagas, lizardfolk, and tortles; additionally, some merfolk have migrated downriver from the Yliri Sea.
While the Winding Strands may appear desolate from a distance, Karz’koruuk is often times little more than it seems: a wasteland, a desert of incredible size. What starts as cracked earth on the vague border with the Strands turns to rolling dunes that stretch for miles, unforgiving and intimidating. Legends say that an ancient kingdom’s crown city rivaled Iadra and Uvezi in size, and the Twin Gods smote the land as punishment; these legends have lured many an archaeologist and adventurer to their assumed death in the sands. The intense heat off of Karz’koruuk has even dissuaded early attempts at exploration-via-skyship, though improvements in technology may soon permit such expeditions. The small presence of tieflings in all of the surrounding areas lead many to believe that Karz’koruuk is the ancestral home of the downtrodden race.
To the immediate south of the Spotted Hills stand the Stonecrash Mountains, the older (and therefore shorter) of the two mountain ranges in Aurestris. In times of old, the mountains were home to a mighty dwarven kingdom, but now the mighty halls are occupied by giants of various creeds. The ancient battles that raged between them have earned the mountains their current name, though nowadays most of the giants are content to be left alone. In other, darker areas, marauding goblinoid races have survived like an infestation, despite the attempts of many to eradicate them or parlay with them. Darker still, there are places were the various races of the Underdark sometimes emerge.
The massive inland sea is one of Aurestris’s most well-known features, and much trade revolves around it. Magical items from Oldtown, lumber from Dalhurst, and aether from Ironroost are among the most valuable goods shipped around and across the sea. Historians theorize that the sea is actually a large crater from some long-ago event, a magical calamity or an extraterrestrial impact. As would be expected, the natives of the Sea are largely aquatic, a mess of tritons and merfolk. The denizens are fierce in their protection of the sea’s fish – not to the extreme of preventing fishing, but to maintain the populations and prevent over-fishing.
At the center of the Yliri Sea is an island formed of a single, isolated volcano. It has existed long enough that a dense rainforest has grown on it, home to tribes of tabaxi and every kind of genasi. Additionally, members of all races might live in one of several enclaves dedicated to oneness with nature, the largest of which is Rjyl. The jungles themselves are populated with dangerous creatures, though the most unique is a species of giant flying mantis, which have earned the island its Common name. Very little traffic comes and goes from the island, as naturalist protect it fiercely, and usually only tabaxi canoes glide across the waters around it.
The younger of Aurestris’s mountain ranges, the Addewaqi are taller, stronger, and somewhat less developed. They are a less forgiving terrain, but life has thrived in spite of it. Aarakocra and aven swoop through the peaks, while kor swing and climb amid the jagged stones; below the surface, dwarves and gnomes abound. Aether is plentiful in the Addewaqi, from the rivers in the sky, to the rivers below, to the crystals even deeper. On the other side of things, the isolation offered by the mountains drew many monastic orders, and even before the first buildings of Ironroost, the Skywise Monasteries were built as places of study and tranquility on the tops of some of the northern Addewaqi Mountains.
Prairies of Lourgale Aen
Grasslands stretch from Dretten Bay, north to the Splinter, and east to the Addewaqi Mountains. While a few villages have sprung up on the long roads from Oldtown to Chaereed, a large portion of the Prairie’s inhabitants live as roaming nomads, following the food and the seasons. They live surprisingly sophisticated lives: on the outside they appear to live rough lives in simple tents, but a long tradition of enchantment has made their homes much more luxurious than inside than out. The wandering tribes of the Prairies are nowadays of mixed races, featuring humans, elves, halflings, and khenra.
Situated between the Stonecrash Mountains and the Prairies of Lourgale Aen, a (relatively) thin strip of forest acts as a buffer zone. Historically, three kingdoms have fought for control of the Splinter: one of humans, one of elves, and one of orcs; now, these three kingdoms are all but dissolved under Queen Mariala. In the time since, the woods have become something of a new frontier, as settlers from Oldtown and Bluegrave venture out to explore the ruins of the great civilizations. Hunting is the primary way of life, though some settlers have managed to clear out enough land for farming (though most “farms” are closer to gardens). The furthest reaches of the Splinter end near Ruskipatt, though deforestation from the city has pushed the treeline back.