|Flora and Fauna|
Drowda, also referred to as the Forbidden Continent, is one of the most dangerous lands in Aloria due to the excess of Planar Essences seeping into the continent. This land, which is situated in the Far North of Aloria, is filled with Essence that has escaped the broken tear between dimensions, known as the Veil, during the time of the Cataclysm. This has resulted in the continent being filled with various tainted Flora and Fauna which have battled against the region’s lone protectors, the Sihndar, for over three centuries. The Sihndar live the entirety of their lives dedicated to preventing these otherworldly forces from leaving their forsaken continent and wreaking havoc elsewhere. Drowda is a place of beginnings and ends, where the Drovv civilization collapsed; where the Cataclysm altered the world forever; and where the Sihndar developed into the powerful warriors they are today.
Drowda’s history is steeped in that of the Void Invasions. From this location, in an uneven but inevitably completed timetable,[Void Invasions occurred when the civilizations of Aloria had grown too much in magical power, weakening the Veil to the point of no return. But after the Fourth Void Invasion ended, a new Race came to call the northern reaches home. Known as the Drovv, their people are only known in records for three things: their strange physique of long necks; their surprising physical strength and combat skills; and their existence spawned a copycat cult. Known as the Cult of Dronnal, this group arose in the Allorn Empire’s province of Drowda, a region near Drovv territory of little consequence and considered a backward land by the majority of the Empire. Despite this, the Cult developed a strong following under the tutelage of the nearby Drovv. Unfortunately, it was not enough to hold back the darkness that came with the Fifth Void Invasion. Millions of Drovv died in the desperate defense of Aloria, but the Void was an otherworldly foe. Their vile armies and corrupted animals surged outward, causing the Drovv to go extinct while also massacring those of the Cult who stood in their way. When the Allorn Empire’s army was formed, much of the surviving Cult joined up and became major leaders in the battle that followed. The Cultists pushed on ahead, attempting to reach their old home territory and somehow found themselves in what is now called Drowda when the Cataclysm occurred.
The Void was defeated, but in the process something had drastically changed. Magic energies of both the Void and the Exist tore across the continent as land bridges and chunks of land were sunk, isolating it from the world. For the Cult of Dronnal, it was a living hell. Many promptly died of poisonings from the raw power of these otherworldly Essences, but the ones who did manage to persevere adapted. Their skin and hair were altered, and the trait known to them as the Northern Taint meant that they now could combat magical forces and foes. The same energies also corrupted the local wildlife and twisted the continent, transforming what had been a briskly cold but habitable region into a warmed-with-energy inhospitable dark landmass. However, the survivors survived and did so very well, carving out territory for themselves and developing into the Sihndar based on the lessons of the long-dead Drovv. Over the span of 130 years, the Sihndar Holds formed across the continent, and the Sihndar fully developed into a people while their continent’s wildlife continued to also develop and solidify into their murderous forms. In 150 AC, the Sihndar all met and devised many systems and beliefs which sent thousands of them away from Drowda, believing that only once the wider world was purged of the taints of magic, could the cleanup truly begin in their homeland. Drowda thus became a training ground for the Race, its dangers kept in check by their efforts. The death of the physical form of the Archdemon in 302 AC had some effect in clearing the darkest areas of the continent, but Drowda now remains largely as it did nearly 300 years ago.
Drowda is in The Far North of Aloria, found to the north of the Regalian Archipelago, northwest of Ellador and north of Jorrhildr. The continent faces the freezing waters of Narrow Ice-Bræ Gap to its northwest, but Drowda’s own waters are positively tepid, if not warm. The likely reason for this is the continued existence of Essences and cracks in the Veil that leak exotic forms of energy into the world, all of this raw power keeping the continent humid in what should otherwise be a freezing landscape. There are also a series of exposed thermal vents on the far side of the continent which blow their heat over the rest of the terrain due to wind patterns, serving to only maintain the humidity. Drowa is a continent covered in hostility, from the rugged northern and central mountains to the inland and southern forests and plains, filled with creatures as diverse as carnivorous plants to fierce beasts. Additionally, rifts, fissures and cracks between this world and others dot the wild, leaking their energy into the surrounding areas, making them warped and violent places. The coastline and edges of the continent are jagged and varied with many boulder and rock beaches meeting jagged cliffs or dark forests. Dotted across all of these regions, though most sparsely in the north, are the Holds, the great fortresses of the Sihndar people based on the architecture of the Drovv who came before them.
The flora of Drowda have all been twisted and mutated into horrifying renditions of themselves, changing in color and form. These mutated plants are generally more dangerous closer to the center of the island, as opposed to the mild and passive flora which live towards the coasts. The majority of what seems to be plant life on Drowda is actually fungi; mushrooms of many sizes (including those as tall as trees) dot Drowda’s surface. Unique plants, such as the Eluhwa or Honey Ball, make frequent appearances along the coasts, plains and forests of Drowda. Others, such as the man-eating Reapers, exist deeper inland and occasionally closer to the Holds.
The fauna seen on Drowda is likely the greatest threat to any adventurer exploring the region. The beasts here come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing they all share is their Void-induced mutations and madness. All creatures on Drowda are hyper-aggressive and will attack anything sentient they see due to the influence of the Void. A prime example of this is the Giant Drow Spider, an arachnid well-known for its devastating abilities, or the Drowda Vas Pirion, a vast carnivorous bat. Another lesser-known creature is the Shssisse, semi-intelligent reptilian hunters which wander Aloria and feed off of Void Essence. On the other side, there are a few animals which are not aggressive or even violent despite their mutations. The most prominent of these is the Drowdan Stag, a species of non-aggressive cervid the Sihndar keep as pets as well as mounts for small units of agile light cavalry or scouts. Another species with members kept by the Sihdar is the Qilkar, a large winged reptilian-mammalian creature capable of leaping great distances.
Derronva Hold is the largest and most prosperous of the Sihndar settlements in Drowda. It was established in 50 AC but has been extended over the years, with high curtain walls protecting the cramped interior. The Hold is also significant for existing near an untainted freshwater source, merely a mile or two beyond the high walls, which has greatly aided the Hold’s population over the years. As a result of this and other factors (a number of effective Xasters, famous Sihndar warriors originating from this Hold), the most promising young warriors of the neighboring three citadels are often sent here, which has resulted in a slightly larger youth population than normal inside of this particular Hold. As a result, this Xaster is one that focuses particularly on the production of food, which makes it even more active. The Hold is also home to a large docking area for native and foreign ships as well as a stable for a contingent of Drowda Stags, kept as pets by the Hold but also for use by those seeking to serve as light cavalry or scouts.
The Veil is not necessarily a tangible location, but its influence in Aloria’s long history is noteworthy enough to warrant mention. The Veil is a non-physical window into the realms of the Exist and Void whose location in Aloria is closest to Drowda. As a result, at this weak point between the worlds, piercing the Veil is easiest, which is why it was the constant location of the different Void Invasions. Unfortunately for the world, the Veil was damaged due to the Cataclysm. Rather than properly close itself, it reabsorbed all Void matter only to be forced to spew out power of both the Void and the Exist into the surrounding environment, which resulted in the mutated plants, animals and inhabitants. Currently, the Veil remains damaged but not in the extreme way it once was, as the effect brought by the damage has resulted in an almost continuous stream of tainting to the region. Additionally, the damage means that any Mage who reaches Drowda might find their powers at incredible strength but also extremely susceptible to possession by otherworldly energies. Such an occurrence is rare, but those who did get possessed, have always been found and killed by the Sihndar. The Veil itself is said to be occasionally seen in Drowda, a warping, shifting effect in a single point like a curtain being blown by wind, despite neither being present. Most of these Veil sightings are known to occur near the center of the continent, and can be on the tree-covered ground or high in the open air.
Grave of the Drovv
The Grave of the Drovv is not a structure or a ruin but instead a vast forest at the foot of Drowda’s towering central mountain range called the Ancient Steps. It is said to have been the site of the Drovv’s main city, a grand and powerful fortress against the Void which the vile energy seized as soon as the Fifth Void Invasion began. The battle was fierce, but ultimately the Drovv leadership fell in defense of the world alongside countless warriors and everyday citizenry. Still, this myth remains unsupported. The region is certainly tainted by the Void, with many vile animals and plants making it their home in the forest, but ruins and remains are yet to be recovered. Some Sihndar claim their ancient maps clearly show the region as the Drovv capital, but these maps have not aged well at all as while some were kept, their usefulness to the early Sihndar meant they were worn ragged with use. Despite this, the region is home to a series of shrines along the edges of the great forest, built by the Sihndar in reverence to the Drovv. One of these shrines is said to hold the fragmented remains of a Drovv which were not dug up but merely built over, thus keeping them intact and respecting their resting place. The Grave is also the setting of several Sihndar myths about their greatest warriors, who plunged into the forest and fought many battles with dark creatures lurking in the shadows.