The Shattered Land
Lend me your voice, oh muse of song,
So that I may sing of travels long
‘Cross land and sea and grass and plain
Of journeys far and back again.
Now hear me well ‘fore I tell my tale
I pray my words will never fail
To enthrall and enrapture the listener’s ears
Throughout the minutes, throughout the years.
And when the time comes for my life to end
Lay me down where the wind may send
My song to ears both far and wide
So it may be heard long after I’ve died.
- Ancient Bardic chant
Ankara. The Shattered Land. A single continent broken into three islands by a cataclysmic event known only as The Worldbreaker. At first glance Ankara seemed very much like the other lands I’d visited in my travels. But, upon closer inspection, I found that Ankara was, in fact, like no other place I’d experienced. With its own system of beliefs and a multitude of dark practices conducted far from prying eyes, it soon became clear to this traveler that many of The Shattered Land’s secrets had yet to come to light.
Many of Ankara’s beliefs revolve around an ancient legend of four great Beasts. Structures erected to these primitive creatures, such as the abandoned temple in the Shifting Dunes and the mysterious worship-stone outside the gates of Oot’Nar, can be found scattered across the three realms of Ankara. Most have either fallen into a state of disrepair, or have been savagely dismantled by the Purifiers, a sect of zealots dedicated to wiping all memory of the Beasts from Ankara.
But, in order to fully grasp the complexity of the land, you must first understand the legend itself.
History tells us that the continent of Ankara was once a land dominated by lush forests and crystal clear lakes. In the time before man, four beasts populated the land: Owl, Bear, Serpent, and Wolf. The beasts were giants, towering over the tallest of trees. Owl claimed dominion over the sky, lording over the birds and other winged creatures. Bear governed the forests of Ankara and the creatures that lived among the trees. The plains fell under Wolf’s rule, and the world beneath the surface belonged to Serpent.
Though the four beasts lived in harmony, they rarely came into contact with one another. Over time they came to accept the land as their own. But it wasn’t long before the Gods above interfered.
When the Gods above looked down on Ankara, they saw the untouched land as the perfect home for their newest creation: Man. Moradin reached down from the heavens and snatched a handful of clay from the land, molding male and female figures from the earth. The other deities infused these shells with life and placed them on the surface of the continent.
At first the newly created men and women struggled to endure in the strange land. Without the skills to survive, the population was rapidly thinned. Many perished from starvation and exposure, while others fell prey to the animals that roamed the land. Then Man crossed paths with Wolf.
It was in an area that Wolf had not patrolled in quite some time, and when He came across the encampment of Man, He was curious. Man, on the other hand, was frightened. Many fled from the gigantic creature, but a few fell to their knees and bowed before it. Wolf, unsure of this new species He had discovered, watched them for nearly a day before returning to His home.
The next morning, Wolf sought out the remaining Beasts and told them of his discovery. As one, the Beasts traveled to Man’s camp only to discover that while Wolf had spread word of Man, Man had spread word of Wolf. The camp was teeming with the small humanoids. When the Beasts appeared, Man bowed down before them, offering them gifts.
Over time, the Beasts continued to visit the encampment, reveling in the way Man treated them. Owl granted them wisdom, teaching them to build shelters that would protect them from the elements. Wolf taught them how to hunt and trap animals for food. Bear taught them to fight. And Serpent gave them the gift of fire to cook food and warm themselves during the coldest part of the year.
In return, Man built great temples to the Beasts. The Beasts protected Man from the creatures of Ankara, and Man treated the Beasts as if they were Gods. As the years passed, the Beasts grew comfortable in this role. Man forgot about the Gods above and worshipped the Beasts. All was well in the world.
Until the coming of the Worldbreaker.
The Gods saw the way their creation worshiped the great Beasts and grew jealous. In a fit of rage, Kord tore loose a piece of the heavens and hurled it down on Ankara. The chunk plummeted to the ground and crashed into the very center of the continent.
The earth trembled under the impact. Oceans rose and fell, turning the once great continent into three large islands. A large cloud of dust rose into the air, choking the winged creatures. The temperature dropped dramatically as the dust blocked out the warmth of the sun overhead. Flora and fauna alike perished as the dust fell to earth, coating everything.
The Beasts did what they could to protect Man, but Man began to question what had happened. They began to wonder why, with all of their power, the Beasts did not protect them from the Worldbreaker. When the Beasts could not provide the answers that Man wanted, Man turned his back on the Beasts.
As the years passed, the temples erected to the Beasts fell into a state of disrepair. When Man crossed paths with the Beasts, the humanoids shunned the giant creatures, pelting them with stones and spears. Though the Beasts could have obliterated Man, they did not. They had come to love Man and refused to do them harm, no matter what the smaller creatures did.
For one final time the four Beasts came together. All realized that Man no longer had a use for them, so the decision was made to leave Ankara to the humanoids. With a vow to return if the need arose, the Beasts disappeared to the four corners of Ankara and were never heard from again.
Left to his own devices, Man did what he does best. Coveting one another’s good and land, the various encampments went to war. Borders were assigned and Ankara, once a continent of peace, truly became a shattered land.
The Beasts have long since faded from the minds of many, but scattered pockets of believers still worship Owl, Bear, Wolf, and Serpent in secret. Though the Purifiers, a group dedicating to eradicating those who still deify the legendary Beasts, ruthlessly hunt these pagan sects, the believers still hold out hope that the Beasts will return to unify the Shattered Land.
The continent of Ankara is made up of three islands: Keryan, Vorus, and Largar.
The island nation of Keryan occupies the northeastern section of Ankara. The entire nation falls under the rule of King Jalonir, an elderly dwarf whose seat of power is located in the capital city of Undain. Jalonir is a kind soul who rules with a just hand. While touring the nation of Keryan I crossed paths with many of the citizens. Though I have no doubt that there are some who oppose the elderly king, none of the people I met spoke badly or the regent.
Keryan boasts many interesting areas that the curious traveler may wish to place on their list of spots to visit. Among them are:
- The tallest spot in all of Ankara. To take in this beautiful view, you must make the steep ascent to the top of Mount Greetal. This scenic vista rewards those willing to make the journey with a clear view of the Keryan countryside.
- According to Keryanian legends, visitors to this large copse of trees can see and speak with their long departed ancestors for a short amount of time. Words of warning though, do not accept their invitation to follow them home. Those who enter the forest have returned… changed.
- This abandoned shrine to the great Beast Bear sits in the desert known as the Shifting Dunes. Multiple maps have been made marking the building’s location, but no two are alike. Locals claim that the desert sands reclaim the shrine and relocate it on a regular basis.
The island of Vorus occupies the eastern region of Ankara. Unlike Keryan or Largar, there is no central rule in Vorus. Instead, the various cities and towns act as nations among themselves. Methods of rule vary from city to city.
Centuries ago Vorus was ruled by the female wizard Keiren Lok. Like King Jalonir to the northwest, Lok was a just ruler. But unlike the citizens of Keryan, there were many who spoke out against her. In the dead of night a group of disgruntled Vorites stormed Lok’s keep and killed the wizard, seizing the Scepter of Light, the jeweled staff that had been handed down from ruler to ruler throughout the ages.
As the self-proclaimed liberators fought over which of them would take up the Scepter and rule the nation, the staff disappeared. With the Scepter gone, the crowd attempted to flee the keep, only to find that many of Lok’s supporters waiting for them outside. The queen-killers were quickly given a dose of their own medicine.
The disappearance of the Scepter threw the nation into turmoil. Without the staff to mark the rightful ruler of Vorus, numerous claims to the throne arose. In the end, each proclaimed their city as the nation’s capital, and each capital city declared itself a sub-nation. These sub-nations rise and fall regularly as towns conquer towns and cities wage war against other cities. Maps of the region can change from day to day.
Perhaps peace will return to this tumultuous nation one day if the Scepter of Light is ever rediscovered.
Though the casual tourist might feel that the nation of Vorus is one to avoid at all costs, they would miss out on some of Ankara’s truly beautiful sights, such as:
- This large lake was originally part of the ocean before the Worldbreaker. The aquatic life in this lake adapted to the new environment, making this body of water one of the few places in the world where you can find freshwater sharks and other ocean creatures. It is said that the lake reaches a depth exceeding seven hundred feet. Who knows what other secrets the murky water hides from view.
- The Devil’s Fountain is a large hole in the earth that lies southwest of the town of Dilga’Nar. This hole frequently erupts in gouts of colored water that local seers use to predict the immediate future. Red liquid signifies war (though in the nearly constant state of turmoil that plagues Vorus, one would think that only red water would ever emanate from the Fountain). Green signifies peace. It is said that when the Devil’s Fountain spews violet, the age of a single ruler is approaching.
- Amazingly, this arid area of desert exists within miles of the southernmost shore of the continent. It is said that the desert was created when Moradin’s hand scraped away the clay he would use to create the forms of Man. Legends speak of a temple to the Great Beasts that still stands somewhere within the desert, untouched by the Purifiers.
The nation of Largar occupies the southwestern island of Ankara. This militaristic nation is lorded over by Warlord Bartan, a human who rules with an iron fist. Bartan commands his peacekeeping forces from his throne in the capital city of Kabba. It is not uncommon for travelers to cross paths with Largarian patrols, so be prepared for numerous questions should this situation arises.
The population of Largar is primarily human, and the other races are looked down upon. This prejudice arises from the attempted slaying of Bartan’s predecessor, another human named Veridon. Veridon viewed humans as the rightful heirs of all that Largar had to offer and ordered that the so-called ‘lesser races’ be rounded up and put to death in an effort to keep humanity from being overwhelmed.
Understandably, Veridon’s extinction agenda did not sit well with the other humanoid races. They rose up against the Warlord, calling for his reign to end. Multiple attempts were made on his life, including the crudely named “Crapper Sapper” incident in which the waste removal system of Veridon’s castle was flooded with flammable gas and ignited by a group of rebellious gnomes.
In spite of the attempts made on his life by the races he considered sub-human, Veridon’s end came not at their hands, but at the hands of one of his own: Bartan. Weary of Veridon’s systematic slaughtering of the other races of Largar, Bartan challenged Veridon in single combat and slew the Warlord. Bartan assumed leadership of the nation as well as the Warlord title. Though he has made a valiant effort to repair the rift between the humans of Largar and the other races, there are still those in the kingdom that view the other races with contempt.
Given the air of intolerance that Veridon cultivated, it is not surprising that the Purifiers came into being in Largar. This sect is dedicated to eradicating any and all traces of the Great Beasts of legend. They have been known to destroy the ancient temples to the Beasts, and to gather any of the holy relics to Owl, Bear, Wolf or Serpent that they come across. It is not uncommon to find members of the sect preaching in the various towns and cities on the islands of Ankara, or staging cleansings with the “Hand of Purity”.
Tourist heading to Largar are advised to follow all of the nation’s laws to the letter as the punishment for breaking these rules can be quite strict. That should not, however, dissuade any visitors from taking in the local sights, such as:
- This fortress, deep within the Wasteland, is the home of the Purifiers. This temple is off-limits to the casual observer, but is said to house many of the relics of the Great Beasts that the sect has recovered. Since it is the seat of the Purifiers, one cannot help but wonder what else is housed within its walls.
- This large volcano also lies within the Wasteland. In early days, the lava-filled mouth of this volcano served as the final stand for non-human prisoners taken by the Largarian Warlord. The captives were given one final chance to leave the island. If they refused, they were pushed to their deaths. Though the current Warlord long ago banned this exercise, there are rumors that the Purifiers have resurrected the practice.