Sunday, August 23, 2009

Delos the Dark Isle


The Dark Continent is a varied land but is hot nearly everywhere. The famous rainforest roughly follows the drainage of large river basins and surrounds the entire central plateau and mountain. It is bordered on the east and south by a chain of mountains, hills, and lakes. The hills and mountains are low and weathered. Rainforest soil is poor for farming purposes. The daily rainfall leeches most of the nutrients from the soil. Once the tropical growth is removed, the soil turns to hard clay in only a season or two. To the east of the jungle, the thick trees gradually give way to open scrub and eventually to the wide savannah. The tropical plains are broad and level, broken by numerous hilly ranges, plateaus, and gullies. The soil is better for crops here, although water can be scarce at times. Water is plentiful elsewhere, and the island has numerous small lakes, rivers, and swamps. The rainforest has interlaced systems of rivers and lakes, which form large drainage basins. The great swamp that borders the south of the continent is one of these. The dominating feature on the large island is the central plateau, which is many miles across, thousands of feet tall, and surrounds a tall volcanic peak that hides many secrets. The Forbidden Plateau is very difficult to reach, as the sheer cliff walls rise many miles in the air. The sides are dotted with caves inhabited by swarms of Pteradons and their evil masters the Pteramen. However, anyone actually reaching the summit would find hidden wonders that perhaps no white man has ever seen, including ruined cities, ancient civilizations, deadly cults and monsters, and forgotten magic and treasure.

The People

The natives of the Dark Continent have become superbly adapted to the harsh heat of the land over centuries of evolution. Dark skin and tightly curled hair seem odd to northerners, but they are excellent adaptations to harsh sunlight. The natives are also immune to many of the deadly diseases that lurk in the air and water. The natives know the land well and can find food and water there. Northerners find that they must adopt the natives’ ways or perish.
There are five main races native to Delos. Tall, dark-skinned natives dominate the Dark Continent and are found in most areas. These native Delosians are divided into three main ethnic groups (Tzula, Ashante and Kongo) and many subgroups. One race, the pygmies (Agogwe), live only in the center of the jungle region. Once they lived throughout the entire rainforest basin, but have lost much of their territory to their taller neighbors (Pygmies are a tribe of dark-skinned halflings that are centuries removed from their brethren across Azura, and think they are the only race of their kind left in the world). Another race, the jungle dwarfs (Kitu), were once found all over the Dark Continent. Now, their last stronghold are the caverns within the south eastern base of the Forbidden Plateau. A few packets of them are found in other areas, but only in very small numbers. The fourth race are the lizard-men (Unthalhu), who primarily inhabit the great swamp and warm coastal waters to the south. There are both primitive tribes in the depths of the swamp and more civilized lizard-men who are able to interact with society. The fifth race, orcs (Ngoloko), inhabit the southern edge of Delos and the dozens of small islands there in great numbers. Most belong to pirate clans who make the seas around Delos a dangerous place to sail. However, several large tribes of Orcs are also scattered throughout the forests of Delos and on many of the islands south of Delos.
The pygmies and jungle Dwarves live quiet, non-materialistic lives and do not have nations or wars of conquest. The dwarves do have one enemy, the deadly Utucheckulu, who are an evil offshoot of the jungle dwarves. The other natives have numerous warring tribes, kingdoms, and even large empires. They are the main participants in gathering trade goods. Unfortunately, they are also the main targets of slavers.
Traditional Azuran demi-human races (dwarves, elves, gnomes, halflings, half-orcs, half-ogres, ogres) that are not native to the Dark Continent are found in the trading posts run by northerners. Many humanoid races are also absent. There are no native goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, ogres, or ettins. In place of these, other humanoids have filled the niches the other races normally fill. Tasloi, kech and trolls live in the jungle. Kobolds and jungle giants live in the rougher terrain, and utuchekulu (evil dwarf-like beings) stalk through the forests. Other intelligent creatures that have formed small groups include beastmen, frogmen (bullywugs), grippli, mongrelmen, jackalweres, serpent men (yuan-ti) and their allies the ophidians and histachii. Aarakocra, brightly colored like parrots, live on the central plateau. Sahuagin, locathah, and nixies live in the warm seas.

Animal life

The Dark Continent is home to the largest normal land animals in the world. The elephant, rhino, and hippo are common, along with giant versions of these creatures. Predators include many of the great cats, such as lions, jaguars, cheetahs and leopards, as well as hyenas, jackals and hunting dogs. The savannah is home to huge game herds, including water buffalo, gazelles, zebra, and giraffe. The jungle holds no large herds, but game is still abundant. There are several species of small antelope, okapi, and wild swine. Great apes live in the forests, including carnivorous apes, gorillas, chimpanzees, and small communities of dakons. Monkeys are numerous, and baboons live in the hills.
The hot climate is ideal for cold-blooded creatures. Snakes and lizards are common. Poisonous snakes thrive in the hot lands, including cobras, asps, mambas, and vipers. These kill more people than any other animals. Crocodiles are a hazard on the rivers, where they feed on the hundreds of species of fish. Insects and arachnids by the millions are found in the jungle, ranging from tiny (disease-carrying) mosquitoes to huge spiders and scorpions. Giant forms of all the above animals, plus frogs, insects, fish and more are found in the more isolated areas. The most dangerous animals are not the rhinos, elephants, or even the cobras. The remnants of several dinosaur species live on the Forbidden Plateau. These huge beasts are rarely seen, even by the natives, but many are vicious carnivores.

Plant life
The jungle is famous for its layered depths. The tree canopy stretches unbroken for hundreds of square miles. Plants of the jungle adapt to the daily rainfall by growing leaves with pointed tips; these shed water quickly. The jungle does not give way suddenly to the savannah. The change is gradual, with the trees slowly thinning out and shrubs growing abundantly. Eventually, the trees become scarce, even the shrubs thin out, and the savannah sweeps from horizon to horizon. The grasses here are very hardy. They have adapted to the dry climate by developing deep root systems and thin leaves, to reduce the area available for water loss. The animal herds are migratory, passing through areas quickly and grazing the plains almost down to the soil. Thus, the grasses are very hardy, allowing for a quick recovery once the herds have moved on. Due to the influence of magic, several plants have developed a crude intelligence. These have devised a number of deadly
attacks, as a way of supplementing the poor tropical soil. Plants like the man-trap, yellow musk creeper, and vampire vine are infamous among the natives, along with all the various types of slimes and molds.

In addition to the threats of men, beasts, and plants, many types of unnatural monsters live on the Dark Continent. The fiercest monsters of all, dragons and their kin, are found in several areas. Black dragons thrive in the swamp, and green dragons live in the jungle-clad hills of the interior. Bronze dragons live in the hills. At least one red dragon is said to dwell within the great volcano. Jungle stirges, su-monsters, flying snakes and giant wasps inhabit the upper reaches of the jungle trees, while nagas slither through the green below. Creatures such as manticores, dragonnes, wyverns, behirs, chimeras and cockatrices inhabit the hills surrounding the Forbidden Plateau. Dragon turtles live in the seas, near the mouths of large rivers. The great swamp and nearby areas are home to many hydras of all types. Froghemoths, a gigantic froglike abomination worshiped by the bullywugs, inhabit many of the freshwater lakes.
Some undead are found among the evil tribes. Savage priests and black necromancers raise skeletons and zombies to be their servants. Ghouls haunt the jungles in packs of a dozen or more, with ghast leaders that can often cast spells. Unique types include the Hungry Dead and Ju-Ju Zombies, along with several types of shadows and shadow hounds summoned by the worshippers of darkness, the God Shadow. Very rarely, black necromancer liches are located within some long-lost tomb, researching forbidden magic or building an undead empire…

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