Ekarez-Ain Depression

Dominating the centre of the Ramze-Ka like an open wound, the Ekarez-Ain Depression is a deadly wasteland that the orcs made the mistake of driving a road straight through. Early imperial surveyors were thrilled by the discovery of what seemed to be a dessicated sea in the midst of the Ramze-Ka, and hoped that it would serve as the salt-mine of the west, breaking the dependence of the new Clashland colonies on elven traders. They miscalculated on two fronts.

The Ekarez-Ain, or Bowl of Tears, is a vast depression between 120 and 200 miles across, and reaching depths of over a hundred yards below sea-level towards its heart. It is a mixture of wind-harrowed mesas and stone arches, weathered rock torn up from Zenth's heart, geothermal hotsprings and salt flats; dry, barren, and hellishly hot. The concave nature of the landscape and low altitude combine to capture and magnify heat, meaning the Ekarez-Ain can reach temperatures comparable to the heart of the Blasted Desert. Frequent and powerful winds summon abrasive volcanic grit and salt into a mordant storm. On other days, there is no wind at all, and the air feels suffocating.

The depression is all that remains of what must have been a catastrophic volcanic eruption, aeons ago. The land remains riddled with reeking ash pits, smoking solfataras and lava tubes, and at its middle lies a lake of magma, still glowing and simmering with the fires of the earth. The half-mummified remains of camels, wild asses and dogs litter the landscape, dessicated where they perished. The orcish explorers were right in that the Bowl did fill with sea water once, and then further tectonic tumult closed it off from the sea and caused it to dry away, leaving great silvery plains of salt in places. But volcanic activity has poisoned some of the salt flats with sulfur and other minerals, rendering it of little use, and what good salt remains is jealously guarded by the hobgoblin tribes of the area. Still, desperate salt miners make the journey into the Ekarez-Ain during the three (relatively) cooler seasons of the year, seeking for pure pans by taste and cutting blocks the size of large grimoires and strapping them to pack animals or their own backs, fearful of the hobgoblins and wild beasts that haunt the wastes. These miners are mostly orcs and their goblin slaves, but a few dwarves and elves also take up the risky but potentially lucrative profession.

Two major tribes of hobgoblins struggle for control of the Ekarez-Ain; the Firepit Dancers and Knife-Feasters. The former enjoy throwing their victims into smoking crevasses or dangling them over lava pits to cure or roast; the latter prefer to feed their captives chips of flint and shards of obsidian, cutting them to death from the inside. The Firepit Dancers occupy most of the middle of the depression, while the Knife-Feasters hold the outer reaches. While they spend most of their time committing atrocities and killing each other, they will always turn on outsiders should any brave the highways that plunge recklessly through the depression.

The imperial road runs northwest to southeast, from the coastal settlements near the mouth of the Bay of Corsairs to the mining towns in the foothills of the Daalands, and forks when it comes to the heart of the depression. For at the centre of the Ekarez-Ain lies N'dduin Talo,the Burning Eye.

N'dduin Taloburning


A lake of lava a mile wide, the Burning Eye's black crust frequently contorts to give a blazing orange-white glimpse of the inferno below, and small eruptions spew molten rock into the air as often as every hour. The hobgoblins, especially the Firepit Dancers hold this volcanic vent in superstitious awe, seeing it as the gateway to the incandescent fury of their twisted gods.

The cliffs around N'dduin Talo are positively worm-eaten with lava tubes and empty magma caves. Great riches can be found here, as the volcanic forces dredged up and cast great nuggets of gold and copper, and strange crystals from Zenth's core. But the hobgoblins have built shrines and holdfasts throughout these caves and passages, and few are willing to penetrate the grisly fanes of the human gods and risk spiritual degeneration for the fleeting allure of treasure.

Perhaps a more pressing reason to brave the molten lake's environs is the strange effect it has begun to have on the region's goblins. Slaves have begun to go missing from mining towns and plantations across the Ramze-Ka, in greater numbers and with greater purpose that usual. Caravans and groups of travellers have reported that some of their goblin companions or captives have become more and more frantic the closer they draw to Ekarez-Ain, chewing at their bonds - or their own limbs! - when restrained. Some believe that a rebel cell has set up a camp in the wastes of the depression, and the goblins are eager to flee to its sanctuary. But scholars and sorcerers fear that the hobgoblins may have erected more potent icons to the gods of the failed race, and their combined power may be emanating from N'dduin Talo. Evil whispers are seeping out through the aether, tainting the souls of more spiritually sensitive goblins, driving them mad, luring them in so they may be corrupted and swell the hobgoblin ranks in preparation for a rampage.

If this is the case, infiltrating the gnarled hollows around the Burning Eye and tearing down, defiling these warped altars may delay the hobgoblin's mustering - and perhaps even free the goblins that have fallen under their spell, but not yet succumbed to degeneration.

Tower of Verdigris and Rust


A recent addition to the Ekarez-Ain - or perhaps just missed by the first surveyors - the Tower of Verdigris and Rust is a mysterious structure in the southern reaches of the depression. It is a jagged and unwelcoming edifice composed of slabs of metal, reddish-brown and golden-green as the weathered metals that give it its name. Dark and barred windows dot its surface, mostly under the razory eaves, and a small, grim gate sits at the foot. The architecture is of a style unknown to the rest of Zenth. At all hours, the Tower belches smoke and flame like a chimney, the thundering rattles and groans of great industry can be heard from it, and echoing up from the stone below

Stagnant pools of alchemically-polluted water can be found dotting the landscape nearby, poisoning, or worse, those foolish enough to drink or touch them. The area is volcanically active, and there are crevasses full of steam and magma nearby - and strange subterranean protrusions of brass and iron and heat-resistant alloys, pipes and vents that channel the steam and lava to hidden underground workshops. Great metal wheels churn, like the mills and prayer-wheels of dwarven cities, and valves and pumps of unknown ingenuity creak and hiss all the while.

Keen-eyed passers-by have reported seeing short figures at the windows or moving around the base of the Tower; some squat like dwarves, others wiry as goblins. These figures are usually cloaked, and always retreat or disappear before they can be approached.