The Northern Expanse
The Northern Expanse has fascinated the adventurous and curious for untold centuries. An icy land, it was only recently opened up to the world following the defeat of the Archdemon in 302 AC. This victory ceased the deadly Void-based storms that swirled along its coastline that kept it separate from the outside world. However, interest turned to fear when from this land came Estel and an army of stag-men with a magical fog at their back. After the Battle of Curag Fields, this army vanished, the fog retreated north, and the Northern Expanse has been quiet ever since. It is an imposing beast of a continent and many call it the greatest challenge Human explorers have yet to face. Despite this, there is limited interest in this distant land given the many wars and conflicts over the last several years which have necessitated the rebuilding and recovery of various nations.
The Northern Expanse has long been a dark bastion of the north and is featured across history as one of the many mysteries of Aloria. The earliest confirmed records are from the Allorn Empire who sent a number of vessels to this distant point looking to penetrate the land’s great mysteries. One report even mentions an Airship being sent into the area. Many of these vessels were destroyed during attempts to use Magic to force aside the elements, and those that were not destroyed returned with sad reports of their lost fellows. Despite these failures, it was through the Altalar that the truth of the storms and their effect on the sea was revealed. Studying the phenomena from a distance and using reports from those vessels that survived, Altalar scholars determined the storms were Void in nature, using dark energies to churn the air and sea to their will. When this was discovered, the Altalar abandoned trying to access the landmass.
The next to come were the Velheim Ailor, filled with bravery and warrior zeal. Sadly, once again all who dared to face the storms either died or were forced to flee. The regional anomaly became known as the “Gods’ Wrath,” and it was said only fools sought battle with it. Instead, Velheim Ailor lived near it and skirted its edges, pursuing the fish and aquatic life, such as the Starv Seal, who could seemingly pass the barrier. This situation remained unchanged for years, the Regalian Empire learning from both the Altalar and Velheim Ailor of the dangers and deciding not to risk their ships. However, several private individuals tried over the years, and all failed. By 300 AC, all official interest in the region was lost and it was assumed to be utterly void of all life, a white waste clearly wracked with dark storms. However, in 302 AC when the physical form of Beashel died in the Regalian capital while trying to possess the Emperor, fishermen of Ellador and northern Essalonia saw the great distant columns of storm clouds lift. The Northern Expanse lay open, but there was hesitation after so many centuries of rejection by the continent. What few boats approached were but poor fishing vessels with full nets of fish who quickly turned around, but an unseen enemy did not hesitate.
Pouring from the Expanse came a dense fog that streamed southwest. It swept along the coastline of Ellador and suddenly changed direction, emerging right out onto the border of Arlora and Torse, both minor nations of Essalonia. From this fog burst a statue claiming to be Estel who sought to consume souls. With her came monstrous beasts, stag-men with four arms and multiple eyes, pale and faintly glowing. The fog that had traveled so far consumed the souls of those slain that day, and Estel began a reign of terror across Torse which ended at the Battle of Curag Fields. At the same time, reports came from northern Essalonia of floating icebergs filled with these stag-men now moving down and away from the continent. In the aftermath of the battle, the fog retreated back to the Expanse leaving thousands of these strange creatures to die or chase after it. Scholars immediately began examining them, dissecting them and learning just what they were. Today, an answer has seemingly been found in a Velheim legend: they are the Ohnark. As a result, while commoners and many still call them Fogmen, scholars and more educated fellows call them the Ohnark.
In the years since this event, the Ohnark have seemingly suffered a terrible fate. Records revealed to the Regalian Empire in the aftermath of the Second Songaskian War thatships, sent by both the Masaya of Farah’deen and some of the states of northern Farah’deen, reported a desolate landscape. No camps of warrior Ohnark were waiting at the shore to challenge invaders, and even where there was some form of shore, steep ice cliffs blocked further progression. While some did climb these cliffs, all they found was tundra, a biting wind and a distant mountain on the far horizon. Some believe the Bone Horror Crisis destroyed the Ohnark, their society consumed and defenseless from the ravenous hordes of dead bone creations. Those that fought them in the Battle of Curag Fields find this preposterous given the ferocity and skill of their warriors. A more recent theory has suggested the Ohnark did die, but not from any conventional means. The theory essentially states the magical fog which aided them was also key to their survival, as they were easily massacred when it started to retreat from the battlefield. Ultimately, the Northern Expanse is once again a mystery. Only the brave and very well prepared would venture there, as, despite the storms now being gone, swift currents and thick icebergs threaten to smash the unprepared to pieces. The open tundra that greets them is also likely to discourage guests, but some do wonder about the far and distant mountain and what unique materials and knowledge the great frozen land might hold.
The Northern Expanse is found northwest of the Regalian Archipelago as part of the Far North. It is north of The North Belt and extends for thousands of miles as a great wall at the top of the world. It is bordered by the Narrow Ice-Bræ Gap off its southwestern coast and the Great Unexplored Expanse to the southeast. The land is shrouded in mystery with regard to its physical composition, but there are some well known basic facts. The region is made up of sheer ice cliffs along the coastline, caused by the region’s creation of large icebergs which float offshore and around the continent. The remainder of the region is icy tundra, with little physical variation save for the Lone Mountain some ways inland from the southern coastline. Since the defeat of the Archdemon, the fierce regional storms have calmed, but there are still harsh blizzards that cover the continent in new layers of snow every few weeks. The region is also known for another weather phenomena; Mærsjel’s Lights are dancing lines of blues, greens and purples which fill up the night sky and are a common occurrence in the evening near the Northern Expanse, though they appear throughout the Far North and in the most northern areas of The North Belt.
Notable Flora and Fauna
There seems to be no flora of any sort growing in the Northern Expanse, or at least obvious flora. The ground is frozen, buried under a layer of ice and snow and unable to be cultivated. However, while the tundra and cliffed coastlines of the Northern Expanse seemingly hold no life, its waters teem with various cold-water life forms. Starv Seals are among the most common, alongside the Gat Bulb Back and various species of smaller aquatic life such as krill or species of fish. Technically speaking, the Ohnark may also be considered a regional animal but it seems all evidence of their existence has vanished from the continent.
The Själskross Iceberg is the only well-known iceberg floating off the shore of the Northern Expanse. It has a very old history, as it was the iceberg which destroyed a noteworthy exploration ship sent by the Altalar to try and breach the storms around the continent many centuries before the Cataclysm. As a result of the impact, the prow of the Nelfin vessel became lodged in the ice and over time, became almost part of the flow. Later, various Velheim adventurers tried to reach this only sign of civilization, yet only one man succeeded. He then drew the only known image of the weathered prow and escaped with his life. Today, the iceberg is known to be still floating around the south-western tip of the Expanse.
The Indomitable Cliffs are a set of sheer, vertical and more concave cliffs found on the southwestern coastline of the Northern Expanse. Most scholars who have visited believe the formation was created by the creation of a gigantic iceberg shearing off and into the ocean decades ago. Its pristine blue and white surface is far higher than even the largest Regalian battleship, reaching a solid mile into the crisp, frosted air. The site was visited by explorers from Essalonia in 305 AC, but they were forced to turn back as a blizzard hit them mid-climb. As a result, there is about 200 feet of climbing rope and spikes rooted into the base of the far eastern face of the cliff, which has the easiest ascent path.
The Lone Mountain is an infuriating mystery and desirable point for any explorers interested in the Expanse. It is a single solitary peak miles inland from the coastline and displays a rather gentle slope before rising up to a point that is so high it vanishes into the clouds. The mountain is snow covered, but also shows a clear grey shade which means it has mineral composition. In addition, scholars are convinced that if any Ohnark are still alive, they likely headed to the mountain since mountains often have meager food, protection, and freshwater. However, for now it remains a feature of the reports made about the continent.
- The myth that gives the Ohnark their name claims that the stag-like men were “luminous beings” that treated with a great Velheim warrior who came ashore on their iceberg home. Ultimately, they fought him in some form of combat and he either escaped or was allowed to leave. There is only a single copy of this myth, held in the records of the Kingdom of Hedryll, and it was written on an animal skin.
- Mershell’s Lights are a very common occurrence at night near the Northern Expanse but most forget that these lights also seem magical in nature, since they exploded outward from the Expanse as far south as Regalia shortly before Estel came. Some now state that they must come from some magical force hidden deep inland on the continent.
- There are rumors in Velheim Culture of the Northern Expanse based on the words of the oldest Staargir alive today. He states he knows a tale so old all others have forgotten it; one that tells that the Gods live in a great white land of challenges waiting to be conquered… sadly, he will only tell those he deems worthy such a tale.