The common name of the world, among those that do not simply call it “earth,” is Ard Al-Mi’ad , which comes from the Elves (literal translation: “land of milk and honey”), from before the breaking of the world. Myth states that anciently the planet was a lush paradise with a wide and varying topography, agreeable climate, and numerous life forms, a paradise beyond imagining when compared to the modern world. The main races had already sprung into existence by this time and had been involved in hunter/gatherer activities, with some permanent settlements, generally progressing into a comfortable stone age lifestyle.
Ard Al-Mi’ad suffered its first drastic change with the advent of dragons, who came from a different realm as predators in the new land, with no true rivals. The dragons could have easily conquered the land with little difficulty, enslaving the humanoid races, if they so wished, but they were content to receive offerings and obeisance, as gods, by the various humanoid species of the day. During the time of the dragons, the land became increasingly desolate and hostile, due to their predations, losing countless species of animal and plant, as harsher and hotter climate conditions (more suitable for the dragons) saw the landscape and the life therein change permanently. Eventually, due to infighting and jealousy, the dragons rose up against each other, and in the internecine conflict slew a great number of each other. Several of the humanoid races banded together to drive the remaining dragons out of the land, at which point the dragons became widely seen as myths and legend, rarely appearing over centuries, allowing the worship of the Ra-Elm-Dûhn to grow and flourish.
The first most significant event in Ard Al-Mi’ad’s history was the Dragon Wars. Although originally venerated as gods, eventually the might of the humanoids rose up against their Draconic masters and they were overthrown and slain. Although several dragons were thought to escape to the deep sand, none have been seen to rival their past potency, power, and dominion, a true shadow of their former majesty. Although all races were active in the Dragon Wars, the principle vanguard was comprised of the Elves and Orcs.
Sometime within the last thousand years, came the event known simply as “The Breaking” or “The Shattering of the World” or “The Wrath of the Ur-Kal-Dûhn.” Although no one alive among the humanoid races witnessed the event through eyes that could understand what had happened, the UKD fled their last realm and came to a plane, perpendicular to the prime material. The bleedover of their power was so immense that it caused untold desolation in the prime material plane, forever altering the face of Ard Al-Mi’ad, destroying what little greenery remained, leaving only the hardiest of plants alive. Now the land is mostly desert, with some mountains and volcanoes, steppes and badlands, as well as a river basin, bringing the most plentiful known source of life left in the world, a last gasp against annihilation, if the balance is altered much more.
Ard Al-Mi’ad sports two suns (Sel and Adl) and one evening star (Kâzon), but no moons. The temperatures during the day can reach in excess of 130° F in direct sunlight. At night the temperatures can drop to as low as 40° F, which is a veritable freezing death to those not accustomed to it. Day typically lasts about 6 weeks in a shot, with night lasting about 3 weeks, due to unusual celestial mechanics. Some creatures are day active, while others only come out at night, hibernating during the heavy days to conserve energy.
Due to the unpredictable movement of the Ur-Kal-Dûhn, especially The Stormbringer, storms are chaotic in their frequency. Sandstorm are common, ranging in power from mild annoyance to flesh stripping fury. Rainfall is often short-lived, but exceptionally intense when it occurs, dropping feet of rain in minutes, giving rise to flash floods. Rainfall often occurs in the Ahket mountains, flowing through the Riven Hills, and then overflowing the Sobek river basin, which is a key part of life and survival in the desert. The heavy rainfall can, at times, create horrific flash floods that can sweep away even the hardiest of creatures to a painful death. Some creatures, great amphibians chiefly among them, come out during the floods to feed and breed. Plantlife takes advantage of the floods to store significant water. What doesn’t get siphoned off by the cities or life in general, ends up in the great Benben salt marsh.
The largest set of mountains in Ard Al-Mi’ad, south of the Riven Hills, and home of the Mokattam Elves. The mountain area occasionally is known to have some hardy, low height trees, which are considered sacred to the Elves, and only cut as part of either aesthetic shaping of the land, a religious ceremony, or royal decree. The mountains are heavily patrolled by the Elves, with little escaping their scrutiny for long. Although most dangerous predators have left the mountains, some remain and are in a balance with the Elves, neither bothering the other if left alone. A decent tapestry of life exists in the mountains’ foothills and slopes, with some protection afforded from the UKD, with occasional visits from Duat Hedjet or Sky Whale, and the Stormbringer. Temperatures in the mountains can be considerably colder than in the rest of Ard Al-Mi’ad, with occasional snow as a result.
A series of volcanoes on the southeastern edge of the Akhet Mountains, thought to be the resting place of the White Whale, or “Duat Hedjet” in Elven, often seen in the sky surrounding the area. The volcanoes are active and are often seen spewing ash, though rarely, in recent memory have they erupted. Some Mokattam are known to practice feats of bravery and discovery in the area as a rite of passage to earn a place among the Elders of their race.
A brackish marsh at the northern edge of the Sobek River Basin, surrounded by the Salt March. What water remains from the river after traveling through the wash ends in a stagnant pool and seeps into the earth, eventually evaporating into the air. Due to the high salt content of the area, almost nothing grows here and swarms of flies are often found abounding, with some breeds of spiders hunting on the flies, though posing little danger to humanoids. A large amount of the salt trade comes from salt mining efforts in the Benben and Salt March. Elven tradition states the Benben was the site of their first settlement, prior to a shifting of the waters in the Sobek River.
All oral and written accounts agree that the Deep Sand has always existed, though not always as deep and deadly as it now is. Home to the most dangerous of creatures in all of Ard Al-Mi’ad, the Deep Sand is not a place to be traversed lightly. Following the Dragon Wars, the remaining dragons were said to have fled to the Deep Sand. Though none have been seen for centuries, rumors abound to their continued potency and eternal lifespans. There are some crystals, known as opals, found in the deep sand, said to make the most powerful amulets to ward off evil, and as such are highly sought after among all races. The majority of opals are provided by Elves, often sold to Orcs, who in turn sell them to Humans in the Sobek River Basin. Some Human and Nubian trackers have attempted excursions into the Deep Sand in an effort to discover their own source of Opals, but have had only intermittent success, due to the high chance of casualties. Rumors persist that the UKD do not wander into the Deep Sand, although no one has been able to definitively prove it one way or the other.
Former homeland of the Orcs, known to them as Navah. It is the only known location of a UKD that does not wander. Endless speculation abounds as to why, though most accept that Baalim is a death god, fixated upon death. In order to enter Desolation, one most commit a blood sacrifice, coat their bodies in the blood of the sacrificed, and then may enter. This ritual is required of all living things that would enter, however, very few animals, no matter how well trained, willingly enter into Desolation unless driven by something horrible. Eventually Baalim’s gaze will turn upon you within his realm, and those whose sacrifice is no longer acceptable, or never made one to being with, their lives are instantly forfeit. Another unusual aspect of Desolation is that there is no aging or decay of the bodies there within its zone, kept in a state of eternal repose. Plant life exists, but whether or not it is endless as well is unknown as this effect has never been studied. Regardless of whether or not your sacrifice is accepted, those who disturb the bodies of the fallen within Desolation are likewise instantly killed. Rumor has it that the winds of the Stormbringer cannot reach into Baalim’s domain.
Ancient homeland of the Humans, per legend, on the other side of The Salt March. It was last known to exist roughly 2000 years ago, about the time when Humans first settled in the Sobek River Basin at New Karanda. No contact has been made with Karanda since then, although rumors periodically surface of a Karandan surfacing at various locations, it has never been proven to still exist. Most suspect that either it was also destroyed during the breaking, or is just so remote on the other side of The Salt Marches as to be impossible to reach.
Former human settlement on the edge of the Sobek River Basin, now desolate, but home to various denizens without a formal home. Destroyed during The Breaking by the fury of the Stormbringer, due to insufficient structural integrity of their buildings. Shortly after the destruction of New Karanda, the Elves left the Sobek River Basin for Myth Celestia, and New Karanda was abandoned by the human, who fled to the meager protection of the tri-cities of the Sobek. Plans are routinely made and abandoned by various races to reclaim New Karanda.
Formerly the area known as Irreantum (Sea to exceed all) to the Humans and Hamamat to the Elves, now it is a vast stretch of endless salt, with no known water or oases. Sometimes referred to simply as “The March.” Flat with occasional dunes of salt sand, the entire area is a windswept abyss of baking death for all who would travel there. Legend says that the golden city of Karanda lies on the other edge and numerous adventurers have attempted the crossing but none have ever returned. Bolstering the human legend, occasionally, massive sets of bones of long dead creatures are found, which appear to be from ancient sea creatures. Periodically hunters and trackers venture into the March and return with unusual shells, bones, and other oddities that support a decent trade in scrimshaw work.
At the foot of the Akhet Mountains the Riven Hills represent what was once known as the Plains of Maribo, a fertile grassland, now more of a scrubland than anything else. The plains now have deep fissures and chasms between a series of scrubland plateaus that are potentially time consuming to cross. When rain storms crash upon the Akhet Mountains, the water flows down the mountainside into the chasms in the Riven Hills, eventually ending up in the Sobek River Basin. These floods are often catastrophic in scope and power, washing away all but the staunchest of life when discovered.
The Riven Hills represent one of the few places in Ard Al-Mi’ad known to have trees, but is heavily guarded by the Orcish Nomads, who have the Riven Hills and the surrounding area as their principal domains, allowing none to enter without Orcish escorts and/or consent. Due to the large size of the various plateaus, and the creatures that live there, a significant portion of it remains undiscovered country. The most serious creatures of the Riven Hills are Canyon Crabs, the largest being roughly the size of several homes combined, a land crab that consumes plant and animal life with massive claws, a carapace several inches thick, and wicked, crushing strength that can snap in half any humanoid with ease.
The most life-sustaining land known in Ard Al-Mi’ad, a cradle of civilization, offering the richest farmland and water supplies. The Basin currently has several cities, the three largest of note being Naala Taesi, Taana Dorei, and Aanoris Unarith in their Elven names, but referred to commonly as Naala, Taana, and Unarith by the other humanoids who dwell there. Constructed by the Elves, but since abandoned, these cities have become the principle domain of Humans, Nubians, and Tabaxi, with a smattering of half-breeds and other races. The Sobek River winds a northerly course through the basin, from the outskirts of the Riven Hills, through the valley, and eventually ending in Benben. This area is ultimately sought after by all races, with the exception of the Mokattam, who prefer the caves and peaks of the Akhet. Bamboo and other reeds grow in equal measure in the valley, providing a source of hemp for rope, and poles used in construction of ships and roofs, when stone isn’t used. Other plant life has found a way to adapt to the frequent storms, often growing in formations that provide a tough exterior, similar to concrete. Some creative people have found a way to leverage these plants in the construction of buildings to provide additional reinforcement. The river itself also has a variety of aquatic life, to include shellfish and crustaceans that are often eaten by the local populace.
The Sobek’s breadbasket is nestled in the minor hills of the Sobek River Basin and holds the majority of the farmland, growing wheat, legumes, and some fruit. The area also holds the largest water reserves of the three cities of humanity. The area supports flooding of the Sobek through a use of cisterns, canals, and reservoirs connected to an area known as the wash, which can become quite turbulent during flood time. During flood times the canals are opened to allow easy access for plants to receive their water. A large number of reptiles and amphibians live in this area and is the principle gathering spot for domestic animal production.
The twin city, as it has a western and eastern half on either side of the Sobek River. Connected by a series of barges, operated by the Burgess clan. This city is home to the primitive shipyards of the Sobek as well as the majority of the smithies, forges, and physical labor-based craftsmen.
The largest of the three cities, and home to all races of earth, though principally Humans. Unarith holds the seat of the five ruling families the Ozun, Vora, Mara, Rinehart, and Burgess and is the closest to a capital of the Humanoid realm. The largest markets are found here.
A river that receives its waters from numerous tributaries flowing from the Riven Hills into a single river stretching north towards the Sobek River basin and on to Benben, where the water goes into the ground. The Sobek receives water often enough that it flows year round, and is teaming with reptile, amphibian, and aquatic life. The Sobek provides life to the entire area and is the largest known river in the world, both by volume and length. The area around the river is decidedly humid, and during the hard summer months can become oppressive. Although principally used by the three cities in the Sobek River Basin, several smaller communities are found within striking distance of the water, though all on elevated plateaus, or they would be swept away during flood season. Flood season is when a series of storms, often quite violent, strike the Akhet Mountains and Riven Hills, dumping large volumes of water, which can cause raging floods. At times the water level of the river can rise over 20 ft, heaving beyond its bounds and causing a swift and vicious end to all that are caught in its wake. These floods fan out through the land and blanket the area with water, though most dangerously in the Sobek River Basin itself. Although short lived, many plants burst into life and some amphibians and other denizens of the sand emerge from long slumbers to feed and breed during the time of storms, often to return to their subterranean dwelling awaiting the next time of the flood long before the waters have fully receded.
The Freeholds are independent lands that do not owe any overt allegiance to any one party, race, or faction. They are built outside of the Sobek Valley, and the laws of those locations are varied and many, set by the leaders or councils that run them. Freeholds are size limited based upon the exposed surface-level bedrock that they can build upon. The following Freeholds have been of specific significance: