Petran Karsts

The heart of the Traq Basin is a mass of limestone caverns and pits covering hundreds of square miles, etched by the waters flowing from the Daaland mountains millennia ago, before the falls changed course and left the area relatively dry save for the aquifer and springs that feed the Lower Traqar river. This area is known as the Petran Karsts, and the cave-riddled area is known throughout the Clashlands as the home of brigands, rebels, hermetic sorcerers, cultists and other outlaws. Goblin assassins use the karsts as arms caches and fall-back positions, while bandits hoard what they steal from the orcish farms and caravans and elven nomads there. Scouts report that at least one shrine to the human gods exists there, gathering mad worshipers and the possessed to undermine civilisation. Jannisary deserters have sought refuge in the area, setting themselves up as petty warlords in defiance of the colonial overlords in Aqamenad. Not all the inhabitants are races of the Wheel, either; deep dragons infest the region, and it is home to tarrasqs, trolls and more. Every now and again the military attempts to clear out the Petran Karsts, but the area is so extensive, rough and treacherous that soldiers have difficulty manoeuvring there, and there are always deeper bolt-holes for the inhabitants to retreat to.

Stonehome


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Stonehome is a bydraa, a dwarven safe haven. Located in the north-western fringe of the Karsts, it consists of numerous alcoves, burrows and cottage-caves dug into a limestone hillside, with paths winding through terraces and carved steps ascending and descending. Its simple architecture marks is as thousands of years old, and the scholar-monks of Jisuk believe it was created by exiles fleeing their defeat in a war between the cities of Kuomaan and Dziingol.

Such useful real estate is rarely empty. Elven wanderers use it as a camp site and makeshift bazaar, while several times a generation a group of dwarven expatriates or orcish homesteaders will attempt to set themselves up there. They rarely last long, though, as Stonehome's inherent desirability ensures that another group will always be along to try and seize it.

Chhokgan Norcave


The greatest and most-sought after legend of the Petran Karsts is Chhokgan Nor - Deep Thunder Temple, as it is known to the goblins. All throughout the region, those living in caves can hear the distant echoes of its booming drums on ancient sacred festivals throughout the year, and cast their minds greedily to the stories of the immense wealth of treasure and mystical power buried there - and fearfully to the stories of its vicious traps and implacable guardians.

Long before the conquest of their homeland, the goblins revered the Karsts as a wellspring of Ho'i Pram, the principle of life and material existence. The sinkholes plunging from sky to earth, the oasis-like groves fed by springs, the majestic caverns and sweeping wave-like rock formations seemed to the priests the embodiment of Zenth's wonders, and they made it a place of pilgrimage. Over time, the offerings of those who came to pay homage and bask in the beauty of the place were used to build a suitably grand temple, where huge drums would sound in the deep to symbolise the heartbeat of Ho'i Pram. Statue-encrusted domes were erected, and bright tile mosaics blazed in the torchlight while gold and gems glinted all around. Chhokgan Nor became a repository of learning, where goblins came to perfect the arts of the healer and the mortician, geologist and apothecary. It was even protected by its own assassin-cult, the Guides of the Stone Temple. But these warriors were unable to stop the doom that befell the temple.

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What it was is a mystery to this day. Some use the fate of Chhokgan Nor as a parable, that Ho'i Pram punished its adherents when they became vain and obsessed more with wealth and status than their holy duties. Others say, pragmatically, that the priests dug too deeply, and lacked the dwarven knowledge of ventilation to prevent the build up of fatal gasses. Still more stories tell of a cache of fossilised deep dragon eggs that were somehow coaxed to hatch, and devoured every last goblin for their troubles. All agree that the temple remains, hidden and forgotten, overflowing with precious metal icons, jewelled vestments, ancient relics and sacred treasures from the height of goblin culture, along with magics and lore of inestimable value. They also agree that it is far from unguarded, with traps of stone and wood and poison and spell, monstrous inhabitants, sorcerous animated statues that maintain the labyrinthine halls and defences and sound the drums on high holy days… and in the heart of Chhokgan Nor's catacombs, the mummified but restless remains of the priests of old.