Now that the player-characters have more throughly surveyed their local situation, it’s time for them to have a much better map… First up (since the players now need it), it’s the map and a few notes on the basic physical features of the island. The next post on this subject will cover the smaller details and the inhabitants.
Valear Island is primarily the creation of two volcanic vents – Mount Erilen, at the “top” of the island, and Mount Tharin, at the “bottom”. Of the two, Mt Erilen is by far the most active. It boasts a continuously-fed lava pool and regularly emits streams of molten rock and metal. Mt Tharin is quieter, and mostly emits steam – although there were a violent series of explosions, earthquakes, and consequent landslides about fifty years back that led to the abandonment (and partial burial) of Dabelith and Rallean, which had been fairly well-settled villages at the time. Small earthquakes are, of course, a regular – and little-noticed – occurrence. The central spine of the island is partially the result of secondary venting, partially the result of lava flow buildup, and partially the result of uplift pressures and subsequent block faulting. Sadly those peaks, and many of the slopes leading down to the sea, are near-impassible; the terrain is made up of a wildly-rugged mixture of old lava flows and tubes, razor-sharp rock fragments, collapsed underground cavities (or, even more dangerously, cavities waiting to collapse), steaming geothermal springs, numerous caves, sinkholes, cliffs, cracks, and gorges. Massive rainfall and a local meteorological tendency towards wet microbursts adds flash floods, high winds, and lightning hazards to the mix, while active – if relatively subdued – vulcanism produces earthquakes, landslides and avalanches, and all the usual hazards associated with (fortunately rare) major eruptions.
The local climate is semi-tropical to tropical, with normal rainfall of approximately ten feet per year – averaging a third of an inch or slightly under one centimeter per day. As might be expected of an island so geologically young, the soil of Valear is thin, rocky, and highly vulnerable to erosion if cleared, hence agriculture on the island is primarily limited to exploitation of the rain forest. Fortunately for the inhabitants, techniques for encouraging the growth of useful plants are well-developed and extensively practiced; near the major settlements the forests more closely resemble gardens than natural forests. Major settlements are, of course, primarily limited to those areas where the terrain is suitable and are mostly connected by a modest selection of trails and – far more commonly – by boat.
Unfortunately, the island is isolated from the rest of Ishorin, even more volcanically active than most of the larger islands, and exceptionally rugged. By most standards it isn’t very desirable real estate – but real estate of any kind is at a premium in the Twilight Seas. Valear has thus been inhabited since before the founding of Ishorin, although mostly in a selection of seaside hamlets.
As far as the map key goes…
The obelisk-markers indicate Power Nexi – places where one aspect or another of the natural elemental magics of the Twilight Seas are especially focused. While there are actually dozens of those, including several locations where Stormfruit plants are periodically charged with magical energy by the Elemental Storms, only the most powerful nodes (and one secondary one) have been marked. Perhaps sadly, as might be expected on a relatively small island, even the most powerful Nexi on Valear are generally fairly minor. The two most powerful are the Fire/Air (and secondary Earth) nexus in the crater on top of Mount Erilen (the active volcano on the “upper” end of the island) and the (artificially amplified) Death nexus – the home and spawning-point for the currently-threatening undead horde. The so-called “Storm” node is actually a weak “Magic” (or Transformation) node, and like any weak magic node tends to reflect the dominant elements of it’s surroundings as secondary aspects – hence it usually reflects either the elements that dominated the last Elemental Storm or the elements that will probably dominate an upcoming one.
The “Statue” markers indicate known sites with traces of very old settlements, long predating the first High Queen. Sadly for would-be adventurers, most such sites are either fairly trivial (“yep, looks like there was a fairly normal settlement here a long time ago”), deeply buried beneath volcanic ash and old lave flows, or (most commonly) both. There may be more interesting things deeper down, but digging them out is a fairly massive project – and not one that has attracted anyone powerful enough to either do so personally or to organize enough labor to do so as of yet.
The two “Ship” markers indicate fishing communities; that offshore area is relatively shallow, full of reefs and near-surface rocks – and extremely rich as far as fishing, the growth of edible seaweed, and the cultivation of crustaceans and similar bottom-dwelling resources goes. Unfortunately, those same navigational entanglements render those communities fairly isolated; they’re almost as difficult to reach by sea as they are to reach over the mountains and slopes.