Nations and Places
Section I: Nations
Section II: Places of Renown
“It was here that the first murder was committed. The land was laid to waste, godly power devastated and spilled, the earth torn and vexed. The goddess died here, her blood drenched the ground, her fury and dying agony poisoning it all.
“It was here that Shenaumac triumphed, his first bloody victory gained. It was here that he began his terrible conquest.
“The gods, shaken and troubled, could not bear to look upon this place, and thus it stayed the turmoiled region forevermore.”
Brown Book of Noramyll (Cayaboré), ca. 1950 A.E.
“The demons, those who could, took flight. The cherubim above steeled their arms and claws and fangs for the fight that was to come. There are no words to describe what occurred then, for the sky was ripped open by the power set free, by the wrath and anger displayed, by the heroic valor of the cherubim, set against the cowardly yet numerous mass of demons. Demons who always flee from a cherub’s sight, they now numbered more than five to one, and courage came with that.
“The battle lasted for a day, for another day, then a week, never pausing, never ceasing. From the sky, bodies fell to the ground. Where a demon hit, the grass turned dark, the foul venom spreading quickly. Where a cherub hit, the earth cracked open in horror and the earth grieved in hot lava about the death of its champion.
“Finally, the battle ended, but not in victory of either side. Both armies opposing each other had fallen, their bodies strewn over the ground.
“A single elven warrior was witness to the spectacle. His tale I have now imparted to you, as much as either of us could find the proper words.”
Corrant, Darawk scholar,
The above two are only examples of the many legends and sagas concerning the Deadcrossing, the stretch of land separating Cayaboré from what is today Rek’atrednu. There are more, but these appear the most ancient that we have found. (There are other texts which purport to pre-date these, yet they are copies of copies at best, with no proof of the original’s existence.)
The legends try to find an explanation for a land that defies explanation. Surrounded by a lush and fertile landscape, the Deadcrossing cuts through as a foul blemish, as dead as its name implies. Viewing this land coldly and rationally, it is a desert of rocks, yellowish in tone, with vapors rising from cracks in the ground almost everywhere. A constant fog hangs over the area, smelling strongly of sulphur. There are many pockets of natural gas below the surface – brittle as it is anyway. In some places, one false step can collapse the dome of such a pocket. In the best case, the poor traveller will fall into the dark cave beneath. Far more likely it is that the pocket will explode right away, blast away its entire roof and whichever – or whoever – is above. It does not take a traveller to prick a gas pocket open, earthquakes happen rather frequently and are certainly the most common cause of an opened cavern.
The people living close to the Deadcrossing say that not a day passes without the noise of one such explosion in the distance. Therefore the pockets must be fueled from some other sources below, perhaps volcanoes. Although there are no mountains in the Deadcrossing, there is some volcanic activity. At the very least, there are plenty of sightings of lava streaming and pooling in this region. (That lava also accounts for many of the explosions. Whenever a gas pocket is pierced, the gas escapes and is likely to encounter the liquid fire soon enough to light the entire cavern’s load.)
Whether there are creatures living within the Deadcrossing, nobody knows for sure. Our best sources are clearly the Cayaboreans, whose Darawk scholars number among the best (certainly best-funded) of our kind. Yet they have never produced proof that there is any life in the Deadcrossing, not even the seemingly all-pervading lichen and moss. The beasts of the nearby – far more hospitable – areas avoid the Deadcrossing; not even forest fires have driven animals into that region. Innate fear might be the reason, yet there might be more at work here.
I find it possible that there could be a magical field surrounding the Deadcrossing that engenders a feeling of dread – enough so that a beast would rather choose the terrors of fire than brave the yellow rocks. Sapient beings are also affected, although we seem to have an easier time of subduing the fear; at least until we come face to face with the true horror of the Deadcrossing, the proximity of certain death under your boots. Subdued fear, though, could explain the vague reports of monsters living there – figments of an imagination overly ignored.
Certainly there could be creatures living in the Deadcrossing. After all the beasts that we have encountered in our quest for knowledge, one can never rule out that another species could baffle us – by surviving the Deadcrossing, perhaps even thriving on the inhospitable land. Yet there has never been any proof, not within the centuries of recorded history, and of recorded expeditions into the Deadcrossing – some of a peaceful kind, others military excursions. Especially of the latter, one could expect that some would have managed to capture one such beast, or kill it and drag its carcass home as proof.
But it has never happened. There are supposedly real “monsters of the Deadcrossing” on display in several traveling shows in Cayaboré and other places, yet those “monsters” are always shams, either a conglomeration of various body parts of various races sewn together, or a victim of a nasty curse, or simply a creature from another remote place, unknown to the general populace.
If magic is at work, it gives an easier explanation of the fears of both humans and animals.
Yet the reader should not conclude from this statement that I support another legendary cause of the Deadcrossing, the so-called magepriests. There are indications that the evil magepriests actually lived, and that they did try to conquer all our world, counter-naturally combining the powers of wizardry and clerical magic within themselves. (For those who are unfamiliar with this legend, I refer you to “The Dowry of Magic and Clergy”, a novel by Archer Melt the Divine. Although written in the Divine’s early days, before his now-familiar strength as a narrator, it is tremendously exciting nonetheless. Also, it is well researched and includes most elements of the various tales about the magepriests. As in the myths, Archer places the final scenes in the Deadcrossing, where the magepriests are finally brought to justice and killed.) But those are no more than indications, culled from texts from other periods which might or might not be correct. Personally I have never warmed to this as more than another sailor’s yarn, entertaining for the moment but without any relevance to reality.
By the same token I don’t believe that the magepriests had anything to do with the origin of the Deadcrossing. Legend places their time in the fourteenth or fifteenth century (nearly two thousand years ago), while it seems as if the Deadcrossing is much older than that.
These days the idea of the magepriests is rather popular, certainly in the northern parts of Cayaboré, as well as in some other circles of our societies. But that, I’d wager, is only because of the undead conquering Keroull and turning it into Rek’atrednu almost a century ago. Where did the hordes of the undead come from if not from the Deadcrossing? Was it perhaps the magepriests who created them and set them to march on Keroull, under the banner of Kristo Pharlee?
Some tales claim that Pharlee studied at the feet of the magepriests who never truly died but lived on in some other form. Others claim that Pharlee himself is one of the magepriests.
Whichever, you can see the virulence that this idea has assumed, because it fires the imagination so much – which also seeks for an explanation how a prosperous nation such as Keroull could fall prey to the hordes of undead as quickly as it did.
I cannot say which the true origin of the Deadcrossing is. More research is needed.