|Full Name||Shadow Isles|
|Flora and Fauna|
The Shadow Isles constitute a significant outpost of Kathar influence in The Far West, second behind the main continent of Saivale located nearby. The Shadow Isles were for many years the front line in the Dread Empire’s war against the Suvial Altalar to the north in the Sundial Isles and against the other Altalar of mainland Daen. However, the Dread War majorly shook up this balance, though the new battle lines still make the Shadow Isles an essential asset to the Dread Empire. Shenath Kathar dominate the area, and with a heavily militaristic inclination, fight many others in the name of the Void, and to protect their homeland of over two centuries.
The Shadow Isles were not always what they were today, and once held a very different name and reputation. They were discovered around 2700 BC, when the Allorn Empire pushed through Hyarroc and began to explore the waters off its western coastline. Given the Isles proximity to Hyarroc, it was the first landmass discovered in The Far West. It was also the first to be exploited, with vast tracts of its terrain cleared for agriculture and mining interests as the Consolidation began, and Saivale was discovered. The Altalar of what were then called the Sunbright Isles, broken up into a cabal of like-minded principalities, carried out their ways for a millennia as the Consolidation flourished. Ancient cities grew old and heaved with wealth, prestige, and raw materials for the Allorn Empire. But then, the Empire stumbled. Agriculture became far more expensive, especially in the soil of the Shadow Isles, and those ancient cities now heaved not with wealth, but overpopulation. As the Floundering carried on, a war between the regional principalities broke out, and some say the seeds of the Kathar were born. But the truth of this is unknown, as is what inspired the Cults that eventually formed first in the Far West before they spread to the continent. Some claim that in their relentless exploitation of the wilderness, the peeling back of layer after layer of wood and earth, some Altalar found something. Either a new, dark power or evidence of such a thing in the ruins of a previous civilization. Others claim that the relentless warfare, especially in these colonial regions of the Allorn Empire, attracted the attention of the Arken early on, and they manipulated the Altalar into worshiping them. However, the most commonly accepted theory is that due to a growing Altalar lust for power, the future Kathar contacted the Void and became entangled in its promises and desires.
Over the coming centuries, slowly, the entirety of the Shadow Isles and Saivale began to convert to the overlordship of the Void and the Arken. The first Shadow Council was called, and Princes of Osc’ïrd as the Kathar call them now emerged on the Shadow Isles first, soon spreading their tendrils to Saivale. But in the north, the Suvial Altalar recoiled from what they saw beginning to take shape. Overpopulation in the Altalar cities of the Shadow Isles was now being solved in mass cullings, and other dark rituals and sacrifices were being made openly to appease gods and beings not in keeping with any teachings of Estel. The Suvial sealed their borders from this threat, and their warships soon kept a vigilant watch on their now fallen brothers to the south. But for the moment, the Shadow Council had turned its eyes to the continent. The imperial family of the Allorn Empire was kept under lock and key by major Void Cults, and now between these bodies, a fierce rivalry existed, along with that against all other Altalar Cults. But after the birth of the Kathar, the greying of their skin, and the full darkening of their very minds, the world changed. The Cataclysm and the Wildering that came with it initially seemed like a joyous time. The Shadow Council demanded an effort to seize power on the mainland, and for the Kathar to assume a new role of dominance in Aloria. However, their ideas were never carried out, namely thanks to the arrival of the Eronidas. The Eronidas Invasion crushed multiple Void Cult strongholds on the mainland while the Wildering had damaged the Void Cults rather than empower them.
These failures on the continent were also joined to the loss of many forms of old magic, and suddenly, much of the Shadow Council found itself irrelevant. This was an opinion also shared by the Arken, for Kathar tradition teaches that they allied with the strong and slaughtered the Shadow Council to a single man, who would become the first consort to a new Empress. In this process, the Shadow Isles were practically scoured of people, not explicitly through death, but largely in forced removal to Saivale. There, the Dread Empire emerged, and the Shenath came to dominate the southern half of the continent, living out long lives on the newly tamed Kathar Steppes. But, beginning around 100 AC, Shenath military officers and more began to set up bases in the Shadow Isles. These bases soon had Shenath families joining the soldiers stationed there, and by 150 AC, thousands now lived in newly reborn cities. Over the coming decades, the Rokh Aïkemo was declared a state apart, but loyal to the Dread Empire, and filled with Shenath, who would become the military backbone of the dark empire. Until recently, this remained the norm, but when the Dread Empire chose to war with the Altalar, and then the Regalian Empire, the Shadow Isles led the charge. Today, the Shadow Isles remain abuzz with activity. Hundreds of their soldiers are trained each day, hundreds are sent out on new assignments and to join forces, or commandeer the troops, of the new Rokhs on the Hyarroc mainland. For the Altalar, breaking the Shadow Isles is the only sure way of beginning the end of the Dread Empire. However, it remains a challenging goal to plan for, and for now, they must contend with more immediate threats.
The Shadow Isles are located southwest from the Regalian Archipelago, west of Hyarroc, and south of the Sundial Isles. They rest within the Dark Ocean, the body of water that it and Saivale exist in. The Shadow Isles represent one of the most fundamental changes in Alorian geography and are an active testament to the power of corruption by the Void, perhaps even more than nearby Saivale. The Shadow Isles of today are nothing like the Sunbright Isles of the past. While some would blame corruption and warping by Void Essence alone, others point out that over a millennium of intense agriculture, mining, and more severely harmed the existing environment, making its warping by the extradimensional power almost inconsequential to the current landmass. Regardless of these factors, the Shadow Isles are a diverse series of islands with various geographic features. The eastern three main islands, Rävakar, Hesthän, and Crsissa, are primarily made up of jungles and dense riverlands, with freshwater extending down from ancient jagged, dark-stoned mountains filled with caverns both artificial and natural. The other three major islands, Trövis, Gëshen Sodor, and Barömar, are more open and possess light woodlands next to plains, though riverlands also criss-cross through the area. Barömar, the largest of all Shadow Isles, feeds these riverlands from the fearsome Jerekken Mountain Range, located at the center of the landmass and filled with long-abandoned mines as well as active ones mining the region’s dark-colored stone and other minerals. Additionally, whole sections of the mountain chain have been sheared away, creating warped and strange shapes with the peaks and the passages up to them known as the Screaming Passages due to how winds rip through them and produce heinous sounds. The weather is similarly hellish. Void Storms permeate the region, causing chaos and raining down dark energy, aiding in the warping of the region’s plant and animal life, while also destroying crumbling or older Kathar property and facilities.
Flora and Fauna
The Shadow Isles have been deeply warped by both the Void and the Kathar’s presence in the region for centuries. As a result, alongside regional secrecy, very little information exists about what sort of creatures and plant life thrive in the area. There is also an issue in that Saivale has much of the same fauna and flora due to the constant trade and interaction between these two close continents, both as part of the broader Dread Empire. As a result, the flora and fauna of the Shadow Isles is discussed in far more detail on the Saivale page.
Politics and Demographics
The Shadow Isles is ruled over by a single collective polity, Rokh Aïkemo. The Rokh is a union of some twenty significant cities scattered both inland and coastal across the six major Shadow Isles, with the minor islands all falling into line regardless. Currently ruled by Lady Umes’iric, she is particularly remarkable given that she has held her position for nearly fifty years. While an old woman by Kathar standards, nearing her 450s, she is a master manipulator, mage, and winner of hearts, having a cult of personality surpassed only by that of the actual Empress on Saivale. Lady Umes’iric’s stable rule helped lead the Dread War, as Saivale’s troops in their first strike were primarily drawn from this region and led by her capable son and handpicked generals. While their establishment of a new Rokh in Hyarroc was doubtlessly not quite her plan, it has still expanded her region’s influence and her power to the continent. However, Rokh Aïkemo has a poor relationship with its northern sister, and often “seventh Shadow Isle” Rokh Össal. Ever since that region’s capital was obliterated along with perhaps half of the region’s Saivale population (the heart of the ruling caste) due to a singular, well-aimed Fire-scar, the game of politics between these two vassals of the Dread Empire has run hot.
The Council Chambers
Located within the remains of the First Fortress on Hesthän, the room known as The Council Chambers purports to be the location that hundreds of Shadow Councilors met over the centuries to feast and plan their various despicable actions. However, when the Arken and their allies sought the Council’s end, three of the members forced a meeting in the Council Chambers, all but obliterating the fortress in the process. The site has been abandoned for decades, but wild animals and a scant few “Kathar loyalists” who claim loyalty to their first government lurk around the ruined city. The Chambers themselves are impressive and exist in the pinnacle of the ruinous citadel. However, half of the space is missing, given that the First Fortress was built next to a cliff and the sea stacks that once supported this part of the structure have long collapsed. Still, the sense of grandeur and ominous darkness is alive and well in the space, especially given how three ancient, black stone seats sit carved in all their ancient glory, supposedly as the seats of the three Councilors who forced their final stand there. The region is also often buffed by Void Storms to add to the ominous edge.
The single most populous city in the Shadow Isles, Äkathkya, is found on Barömar on the Kaikas Strait over to neighboring Gëshen Sodor. The city has a grand bridge of chains over the Strait, allowing it to successfully seal off one half of the Strait and protect itself should the city be attacked. The chain is a much more modern addition to a city built over 1000 years ago. During the Consolidation, it was called Byviora, but the Shenath later reclaimed its ruins and turned it into a military fortress. Today, there are still signs of the ancient splendor Byviora might have once held. Ancient arches arc above the city streets now draped in black and red flags and fabric. The great temple complexes by the East Gate feature profaned, and long graffiti-covered iconography of ancient Estel worship and the western slums are built in the shells of old upper-class apartments. The city’s harbor is also extensive, with a canal through the core of the city which is often used to parade military heroes and their conquests to the feet of the Seven Hundred Steps, at the top of which is the Dominor Palace, in which is housed the governments of the city and the Rokh Aïkemo at large.
- There are tales told of ancient Altalar Undead haunting a single, ancient fortress somewhere in the far north of the Shadow Isles. Known as Dulga Kaj-tan, it is often said to be a tunnel to Ammu-Loa’s Grand Temple in Daen.
- The Shadow Isles act as a buffer for the Dread Empire in more than a political and militaristic sense. Only adding to the dangerous nature of Void Storms in the region, the remains of typhoons and hurricanes from Sendras or as far away as Hadar are kept from Saivale by the landmasses of the Shadow Isles.