Every fantasy setting needs a place so dangerous that nobody goes there, except the adventurers who are pursuing who-knows-what that’s been hidden out in place that nobody dares to go. For the Speaking Lands, that’s Asfixis. Or at least, that’s one Asfixis. There’s two more Asfixises, where centuries of war and intrigue have made things just about as dangerous as the other Asfixis.
Lets check it out, hm?
Confusingly, the name “Asfixis” applies to three things: a mammoth volcanic caldera at the southern end of the Kharzan range and the two dwarven cities that lie near it. Unhelpfully, millenia-old internicene battles between the two cities have erased their original names from the historical record. Among the dwarves, the entire region is referred to as Asfixis; to outsiders in Outland and Verdas, there’s no need to distinguish the two cities: ‘Asfixis’ simply refers to the closer one.
The caldera was formed nearly two millenia ago in a massive volcanic explosion, after which water from the Rushing Sea flooded the caldera, resulting in superheated steam clouds that created terrible storms for months. The explosion and ensuing tunnel collapses wiped out subterranean civilization in Kharzan as far as present-day Granite Hold. The Webiga Delta was turned into a wasteland of soot and dead vegetation starved for sunlight; the frail ecosystem of the Wastecoast never recovered. The devastation was so massive that even early [Loratha|[Lorathan]] records from the other side of the continent recount the Year of Ash and Storms.
There is no end to the stories explaining what caused the Asfixis eruption, ranging from an arcane mishap causing a runaway chain reaction, the judgement of a legendary elder dragon Ruhrad, to an ancient dwarven grudge reaching an explosive conclusion.
Today the caldera is a bubbling dead zone ringed by shattered and barren mountain ridges. A number of underwater vents disgorge poisonous gasses at tremendous temperatures and keep the seawater scalding. The outlet where the caldera water meets the colder ocean water is constantly wracked by storms. While the air is not uniformly lethal, drifts of poisonous gas are common; luckily they rarely escape the bowl of the caldera. Nothing lives in the Asifixis caldera, although daring explorers have reported hostile erdgeists.
The dwarven cities represent the southernmost extent of the dwarven High Road, and the tunnel between them provides an essential trade linkage between Outland and Verdas. Through the high road, goods brought to Asfixis can travel as far as the Jolliballum on the Quiet Sea. This powerful trade advantage has made for a contentious history. The cities have been at war with each other, beseiged, or the target of subterfuge and conspiracies for their entire history. The fact that controlling both cities is a requirement to claim the King Under the Mountain has never helped matters.
The cities of Asfixis are one of the few dwarven holds in southern Kharzan to suffer foreign occupation. During a period of fierce fighting between depleted dwarven armies, a horde of kobolds led by a coven of vine witches took control of both cities. Intending to reclaim their stolen homelands, the kobolds allowed cooperative dwarven residents to remain while exiling or executing those who resisted. During the two and a half years they controlled the cities, the coven worked feverishly to summon the spirit of the dragon Ruhrad. They believed the ancient dragon would be able to protect the city, heal the caldera, and herald a new era of peace. Dwarven lairds from the rest of Kharzan invaded and routed the kobolds before the summoning could be completed.
Next week’s poll is a nice grab bag: a big region, a smaller geographical feature, a supernatural construct, or a well-loved fantasy race. Which one should we check out next?
And as always, big thanks for your continuing support! 😀