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Vesperlands Atlas (Blue Moon 4)by John Calvin from Threshold Magazine issue 10
Once Upon a Blue Moon
by John Calvin
The bizarre and beautiful setting of the Hollow Moon was first envisioned by Sharon Dornhoff in June of 1998. She imagined that Matera, Mystara’s visible moon, was also a hollow shell, much like its parent planet. Yet, while the innards of Mystara are bathed in the red light of an eternal sun, Matera’s core is a lightless, shadowy world. Much like the Hollow World, the Immortals have populated the inside of Matera with cultures from throughout Mystara’s history1
The Vesperlands are located on the southeastern shores of the Spindrift Sea, and have been the home of the Vesper Elves for thousands of years. These elves, whose ancestors once lived in the fabled city of Aengmore, split from their Schattenalfen cousins when they rejected the patronage of Atzanteotl. For a time they returned to life on the surface of Mystara, near present day Glantri, but small numbers and increasing pressures from surrounding regions nearly drive them to extinction. Inside the confines of the Hollow Moon, the Vesper Elves have recovered from their travails, their society thriving in the darkness.
Map of Vesperlands and Surrounding Regions
The Vesperlands can be broken up into several different regions, each with their own unique terrain features, plants and wildlife.
Shorelines along Sinus Medii are more humid than the northern coasts, often causing dense banks of fog to form when the warmer air over the Sinus comes into contact with the cooler air of the coast. Fungal forests tend to be short, dense, and fairly spongy, decaying and growing so rapidly that paths form through the wilderness like an ever-changing, living maze.
Molds, puff balls, and slimes (both stationary and mobile forms) also abound in the region. Giant communal insects are also common, many of which farm the fungi as their primary food source. Ant and termite species predominate, though there are a handful of smaller (dog sized) wasp and beetle species that also roam the area.
Shorelines along the Spindrift Sea tend to be misty, with regular rainfall throughout the Materan year. Fungal forests in this area tend to be taller, and more woodsy, giving way to mossy plains in the north, and finally to grasslands (one of the largest true grasslands in the Hollow Moon).
Flowering plants, many of them bioluminescent, dot the plains, attracting many breeds of bees, both mundane and giant. Giant wasps roam the land from Mount Arypag northwards to the coastal waters.
Rima Ariadys is a vast gash that cuts across the Vesperlands from Mare Tranquillitatis to the Spindrift Sea. Rivers pour into it, eventually reaching the seas to the east and west. Crossing is difficult by land, for there are no bridges that will span its width. Mists often bubble up from deep within the gorge and cover the nearby landscape.
Mount Arypag is a large volcanic caldera, bordering the northern Ranqal Mountains. Arypag is quite active, erupting like clockwork once every two years. Smoke, cinders, and ash are ejected into the air and blanket the nearby countryside during Fire Times. The violence and destruction intensifies when Mount Arypag’s and Mount Kodyn’s eruptions coincide, with volcanic blocks smashing buildings, and fires spreading across the inland forests. The giant wasps of the area become extremely agitated during these times, and even the domesticated breeds are difficult to control.
Surrounded by mountains and cliffs along its northern coasts, and by forested hills along the south, the Hypparq Sea is one of the smallest bodies of water in the Hollow Moon to maintain that title. Pines and other conifers dominate its southern shores, while the northern coasts abut against rocky outcroppings of the Ranqal Mountains.
Nixies dominate these waters, making them hazardous for fishermen and merchants alike to ply. Though not directly aligned with Adhuza, the nixies enjoy manipulating the elves along their borders, and often constitute a serious threat to Vesper security.
Although steam and gasses vent from the caldera constantly, Horrocks only truly erupts once every 157 years. The devastation it causes is enormous, but the elven relic-keepers at Angkar use their clan relic to protect the ancient temple from destruction.
A haunted valley full of monsters and worse, the elves avoid this region whenever possible. Still they must be ever vigilant, for madness inducing smokes bellow forth during fire times, and are usually accompanied by attacks by ravenous animals, and horrors that defy description.
The Ranqal Mountain range runs through the center of the Vesperlands, roughly dividing the country into north and south territories. High mountain lakes abound throughout the range, feeding many of the region’s rivers and supplying many Vesper Elf settlements with water. Few of the peaks maintain any snow, and volcanic activity is apparent throughout the range; hot water springs and gaseous vents are common.
Panthers and other large cats are prevalent, and often roam down into the foothills in search of more abundant prey. Birds and pterosaurs are also present, though many of them are dwarfed in size by the giant wasps that dominate the skies.
Mount Kodyn is situated in the northern edge of the Ranqal Mountains, roughly in the center of the Vesperlands. It erupts once every five years, although very few Vesper Elf settlements are near enough to be affected. Efreet have a small foothold here, possibly an extension of the City of Brass. Portals to their stronghold only open during Fire Times, though some stalwart merchants do brave the perils to trade with the creatures.
Sidebar: Vesper Nobility
There are several titles used by nobility in the Vesperlands. Tuhktyn is the highest title, equivalent to a king or queen (it applies equally to both sexes). The title is taken by leaders who hold authority over multiple clans, and in fact a Tuhktyn must renounce membership in the clan of their birth, effectively making them clanless. Only the largest city states are ruled by Tuhktyn.
Beneath the Tuhktyn are the Piltyn, equivalent to a landed lord or lady, who is typically the head of an elven clan. In some cases a Piltyn may be the vassal of a Tuhktyn, however there are also Piltyn in the Vesperlands who do not recognize any higher authority. Many of the smaller city states are ruled over by a single Piltyn.
Calpollyc are family heads, though some of the smaller clans are ruled over by one, rather than a Piltyn. Qalpiltyn is a rare title, not inherited by blood, but rather bestowed on those who show exceptional skill and ability in the martial arts. These elves are the generals of Vesperlands armies, and wield authority over the many fortifications spread throughout elven territory.
The Vesper elves are organized into several different city states throughout their territory, each controlled by one or more ancestral clans. City states are very competitive with one another, especially those situated along the Sinus Medii. Rivalry amongst the states can become very heated, and even on occasion lead to outright war, though all of Vesper is quick to band together when facing outside threats.
Image: Map of the Vesperlands
Important Figures: Piltyn XXX
The giant wasps that the Vesper Elves ride were first domesticated in this city. Aridoxmal boasts over two dozen hive stables despite its relatively small population, and supplies many other cities in the Vesperlands with their wasp stock. Some of the finest Wasp Knights hail from this city.
Situated between Rima Ariadys and Mount Arypag, Aridoxmal suffers through some of the most frequent, and worst, Fire Times in all of the Vesperlands.
One of the larger Vesper cities, Intynni is fairly cosmopolitan by Vesper Elf standards and is comprised of several clans. The city sees trade with the Taurus gnomes and the Albheldri to the north as well as with Cacklogallinia and other nations from the Sea of Tranquility region. Honey is a major trade item, and the city’s inhabitants have apiaries set up across the northern plains.
There is a long standing rivalry between Intynni and Tynkal, the dominant southern city state of the Vesperlands. The two cities have been competing over resources, trade routes, and allies for centuries. Intynni is the more militaristic of the two states.
Important Figures: Calpollyc Iyxal
Maniyat is Intynni’s gateway to the fertile plains and grasslands of the north, and is known as the breadbasket of the Vesperlands. A handful of small clans dominate the city, each devoted to the art or farming, or crafts that support that endeavor.
Founded on the shores of Lake Obvyk, Maniyat once rivaled Intynni as the jewel of the north, but repeated conflicts between the two settlements eventually took its toll on the city. Now occupied, Maniyat’s sole purpose is to feed Intynni’s war machine, though not all of its inhabitants are resigned to that fate.
Fort Yaxku protects the Vesperlands from northern Shaergarde, but also guards Intynni’s agricultural interests from Ongkyr. Vesper war bands from Yaxku range south from the Rima Ariada to the Spindrift Sea, but rarely venture past the eastern foothills bordering Ongkyr.
Important Figures: Piltyn Syllium
Mycos is a major supplier of fungal goods, specializing in fungal “lumber” harvested from the woody stalks of the giant fungi that grow along the coast there. Fungal purveyors from this region have a mild rivalry with those from Tynkal, although the goods produced in both regions are generally quite different.
Unlike other city states of the Vesperlands, Mycos and Vylkas are ruled over by a council of nobles from both cities. The council is advised by a mystical band of fungal druids See Hollow Moon Spells http://pandius.com/hllwspel.html for more information on the Fungal Druids and their powers. The Fungal Druids are made up from various other races; including: aranea, minotaurs, hin, and rakasta; and compose a distinct population group in the city. who have claimed the region between Mycos and Vylkas as their home, though some suspect that it is really the druids who are in charge.
Important Figures: Calpollyc Parryn
Though not a sea power, the Vesper Elves do construct rudimentary seafaring vessels to ply the waters of the Spindrift Sea. Vylkas competes with Pysca as the primary sea port and shipbuilding center, though the shipwrights of Pysca are held in higher esteem. Vylkas ships are constructed using fungal logs shipped down from Mycos by coastal ferry.
The Calpollyc of Vylkas and the Piltyn of Mycos rule this region together, in council with the fungal druids of Mycos. Though clans from the two cities have been allies for centuries, the dominant city switches throughout time. Currently Vylkas fills the subservient role to Mycos.
Important Figures: Piltyn Shasha
Conquered several times over the centuries by the allied forces of Mycos and Vylkas, Mimyr continuously struggles for its independance. The Piltyn of Mimyr has taken subterfuge and intrigue and made them into art forms, playing the two larger cities to the west against one another. Though their alliance is currently strong, Mimyr ever tests those bonds.
Known as the gateway to Angkar, many elves making the pilgrimage to that holy site start their journey from this city. Not all is as it seems in this secluded mountainous city, for a small community of shapeshifters dominates the nobility here.
Important Figures: Piltyn Lakyl
Slightly less prosperous that Intynni, Ongkyr nonetheless has access to farmlands, albeit inferior to those that Intynni controls. They trade with Cacklogallinia, Margasta Tribes, and other nations of Mare Tranquillitatis.
Ongkyr, often stages minor raids against Intynni over farmland and apiary rights. Their Wasp Knights are some of the most skilled in the Vesperlands, focusing on surprise attacks and hit and run tactics.
Sidebar: Elves of Pynar
The elves of Pynar have been corrupted by magical emanations from the Valley of Horrors. Although some still maintain the appearance of elves, others have been twisted into monstrosities beyond description. Though no two elves are the same, several general classifications can be made.
Elf-ish: Though these elves appear mostly normal, there is always something unsettling about them; the way they move with jerks and twitches, raspy buzzing voices, pointed teeth, or an overly detached demeanor.
Aberration: These creatures have clearly undergone some form of transformation, though they still retain the vague likeness of an elf. Many have faceted eyes, chitinous skin, appendages with too many joints, or mandibles in place of mouths. DMs may use the stats for Hivebrood to approximate the power of Pynar Aberrations.
Vespertaur: Possessing many of the same traits as Aberrations, these creatures also have the lower bodies of wasps, complete with multiple legs and wings. DMs may use the stats for pegatuars to approximate the power of Pynar Vespertaurs. In addition to standard attributes, also give Vespertaurs stingers with a poison attack.
Abomination: The upper echelons of Pynar society are controlled by Abominations, grotesque amalgams of toothy maws and clattering spiny legs. DMs can feel free to use any number of monstrous and otherworldly creatures to approximate the power of Pynar Abominations.
Important Figures: Piltyn Vzzbyx
Isolated from most other communities in the Vesperlands, and constantly inundated with poisonous madness-inducing smoke from volcanic activity in the Valley of Horrors, the elves of Pynar have been transformed into something insidious. The city itself resembles a hornet’s nest - a gigantic version of the hives of wasp mounts used in other Vesper elf cities. The inhabitants of this hive are not wasps however, but the elves themselves.
Those few elves of Pynar encountered by others of their kind are only vaguely disquieting, possessing some traits that hint at an insectoid origin. Deeper in the hive, unseen by outsiders, the true abominations dwell; vespertaur elves that have the body of a wasp and the torso of an elf, elves with four arms, exoskeleton shells, multifaceted eyes, and even worse.
Population (Village): 13,000 (75% elf, 13% human (Albheldri), 6% rakasta (Mauro), 4% human (Varienya), 2% aardovai)
Important Figures: Piltyn Fycal
Ancient elven traditions of seafaring are still held in high esteem in Pysca, where many master shipwrights dwell. Elven captains from Pysca are also renowned for their prowess in sailing the steaming waters of Sinus Medii, and navigating through treacherous tribes of devil fish that dwell within.
Relatively protected by the jagged walls of the Rhanqal Mountains, Pysca is also seen as a rustic backwater; a territory that sees few battles both from within and without. The elves who dwell there are fiercely individualistic and self sufficient.
Important Figures: Calpollyc Tyssi
Clans of Ozkoly and Pysca have intermarried for centuries, strengthening the bonds between those two cities to the point that Ozkoly is generally seen as an extension of the slightly larger city to the north.
All overland trade to and from Tynkal must pass through Ozkoly, and the city is in fact a center of mercantilism in the region.
Important Figures: Qalpiltyn Gyrolloc
Fort Pycal defends the Vesperlands in the northwest, but it also serves as a rustic trade center. Trappers and hunters frequently use it as a base when traveling into the wilds of the Rilles, and bands of aardovai traders are not uncommon within its walls. Pycal also sees use as a portage, where small vessels may dock and travel overland rather than risk the (devil fish infested) waters travelling around the Rilles.
Important Figures: Piltyn Wyxwir
One of the earliest Vesper settlements, Qalikat is the last stop on the road to Angkar, a pilgrimage made by many Vesper elves at least once in their lifetime. Alone in all the Vesperlands, the elves of Qalikat have been able to domesticate several breeds of giant bees that dwell in the area. The honey that is harvested serves as the major resource produced in the area, and is sought after by elves across the Vesperlands as well as by other nations.
Warriors of Qalikat are expert rivermen, and use the waters that wend through the mountains and highlands of the area to great effect.
Important Figures: Qalpiltyn Murmyr
Elves stationed at Fort Hyccal patrol the eastern borders of the Vesperlands, but in truth spend most of their time engaging the monsters that emerge from the Valley of Horrors to the south. Qalikat sends a constant stream of support, and rotates most soldiers out of the fort on a regular basis, however there is a small cadre of hardened warriors that have made Hyccal their permanent home.
Important Figures: Qalpiltyn Rinnai
Fort Nyhu defends against Shaergarde, but also serves as a trading post with that nation. Goods can be delivered all the way to Mare Tranquillitatis through riverways. Compared to the warriors stationed at Fort Hyccal, those in Nyhu see very little action. Some consider being stationed here a punishment.
Important Figures: Tuhktyn Soona
Tynkal is one of the largest Vesper cities, comprised of several clans and ruled over by Tuhktyn Soona. It is a major trade center for nations of the Sinus Medii, and ships from Adhuza, Mauro, and the Albheldri Isles can all be found docked there. Leading inland from the sea is Ancestor’s Avenue, a long road with step pyramids of all shapes and sizes bordering both sides; each a holding of the clans represented in the city. At the far end of Ancestor’s Avenue is the Temple of Light, the largest pyramid in the city, and the citadel of the Relic Keepers.
In addition to fishing and trade, Tynkal controls the southern fungal plains of the Vesperlands, and fungal farms stretch outward from the city following the Qyssi Road to the south. Conflict with the northern city of Intynni has existed since the founding of that state, however where Intynni is militaristic, the battles waged by Tynkal are fought by its merchants.
Important Figures: Qalpiltyn Uunkys
Fort Urkang guards the coastland trail and northern border with Adhuza, as well as the shorelines of Sinus Medii. Varienyan pirates are rare in these waters, though devil fish raiding parties are always a nuisance to merchants plying nearby waterways.
War parties of Urkang are always bolstered by Relic Keepers from Angkar, a necessary precaution for a fortress so close to Adhuza. The fort has fallen to that nation and been retaken on several occasions in the distant past.
Important Figures: Qalpiltyn Kylaa
Fort Qyssi guards the southlands and Hypparq Sea from incursions by Adhuza. While its sister fortress Urkang to the north deals mostly with merchants, Qyssi sees increased conflict with its neighbor to the west. Adhuzan pirates from Varienya are common in the waters of the Hypparq Sea, as are forays by the pesky nixies that inhabit those waters.
More than one occasion has seen the fort fall to nixies, and since those times only female warriors are allowed to man its walls.
This is the site where the Vesper Elves found themselves in BC 1400, after being magically transported to the Hollow Moon. Here, the small community of elves found their holiest relic, the Prism of All Colors, and built a mighty temple around it. They called the place Angkar, named after the city of their ancestors, Aengmore. Now it is a holy site, visited by elves throughout the Vesperlands and by other supplicants across the Hollow Moon.
In Angkar, the relic keepers have ruled for over 2,400 years. It is a sacred place to the elves where all internal conflicts are forgotten and no elf may raise arms upon another. It is also from Angkar that the relic keepers protect their homeland from foreign intrigue, especially from Adhuza, for the Prism of All Colors allows the keepers to see things as they truly are. Neither shapeshifters, possessions, nor dominated psyches can escape their gaze, and the keepers recognize them all whenever they are encountered.
Xulam is the city of wizards. Many travel through the city on their pilgrimage to Angkar, though few are welcomed to stay for long. The wizards of Xulam are a secretive bunch, and are determined to rule over themselves. Those that are accepted into the ranks of the wizards must give up all ties to family, clan, and city.
An old troglodyte fortress on the border of the Aardovai Rilles, Zyzzid has stood unclaimed for centuries, though it is far from abandoned. Tales abound of ghostly troglodytes and other undead horrors roaming the crumbling halls. While there may be some truth to those tales, the reality is that they are probably propagated by the bands of brigands and bandits that frequent the ruins.
Once the greatest Vesper city, Dryssek was destroyed by the pteryx in AC 87 during one of their more violent purges in the area. Since then the elves shun the place. It serves as a reminder to them to not grow beyond their means, to not become arrogant and decadent, and to always keep one eye upon the skies above them.
Very little is known about Horraqs. The ruins existed even before the elves arrived in the Vesperlands, and every attempt at claiming them has ended in disaster. Building size ranges from gigantic to the diminutive, causing some to speculate that this place was once a stronghold of the fey. Whether true or not, something much darker now holds sway over these ruins, as guttural cries and shrieks can often be heard echoing off the waters of the Hypparq Sea.
The Prism of All Colors is a large semi-translucent crystal that resides at the heart of a massive stone pyramid in the center of Angkar. It is attended by the Master Prism Keeper and 2-8 acolytes at all times. The Prism exhibits several innate properties which can be experienced by all within a 360 foot radius of the artifact.
Relic-keepers who study the Prism for at least one year become attuned to it, and are granted its innate powers wherever they go. A relic-keeper must make a pilgrimage back to Angkar, and the Prism of All Colors, at least once every Materan year, or loose these powers.
The true color of all individuals and objects can be seen by anyone within the artifact’s sphere of influence. An object’s true color is the color it would emit if exposed to white light (something which is not common in the darkness of the Hollow Moon’s interior.
An object’s or individual’s true appearance is revealed while within the artifact’s sphere of influence. Shapeshifters appear as if constantly morphing between their different forms. Beings possessed or dominated by another project a ghostly image of the one controlling them above their heads.
Keepers who study an item while within the artifact’s sphere of influence are able to ascertain that item’s history and associated powers. The older and more powerful an item is, the longer it must be studied. Recent history is revealed before more ancient history, and lesser powers are revealed before greater ones.
Not only does the Prism have innate properties, but the relic-keepers can use the artifact to craft other magical items. A semi-living thing, the Prism grows continuously, and the relic-keepers use this property to great advantage, harvesting crystalline fingers of new growth for use in rituals and to craft magical items. Should too much of the Prism be harvested at once, its powers will cease, at least until it grows to full size again. It is because of this that the elven relic-keepers only harvest pieces of the Prism at well defined intervals.
Once every month a portion of the Prism may be shaved off. Ground into a powder, with the proper alchemical components and spells, it becomes Dust of Appearance. Each application of Dust can be spread across a 10’ by 10’ room, and reveals all secret portals, traps, and hidden inhabitants. If directly sprinkled onto a creature, the dust mimics the true appearance effect above.
Every year one vial of Oil of Color can be collected from the Prism. The vial of Oil can be cast and produces the same effect as a prismatic sphere wherever it hits. In addition, Oil of Color serves as the main component when producing other magical items (such as Elven Helms, and Aurora Clippers).
An Elven Helm is a light helmet made of silk and hide, with a leather eye guard built into the face. Oil of Color is used in the creation of these magical items, binding the helms with the powers of the Prism of All Colors. The wearer of the helm has vision as if he area being looked upon is bathed in white light. In addition the helm reveals all shapechangers and individuals who suffer from possession or domination magic.
Every 100 years the Prism has the ability to create an Aurora Clipper, a ship of light that travel through the moon’s firmament as if sailing through water. An Aurora Clipper can carry up to10 elves. It is constructed of the finest silk, and must be soaked in 100 vials worth of Oil of Color for a full Materan year before it is firmament worthy. Such vessels are kept under the care of the relic-keepers, except under the most dire of circumstances, when they may be lent out to adventurers on important missions.
Calpollyc Skaryl, a disenfranchised Intynni noble, and his followers have decided to reclaim the abandoned city of Dryssek and rebuild it as a power base. The PCs may either be a part of this expedition, or sent by others to put a stop to it. Pteryx automatons mindlessly patrol the city, though their purpose remains a mystery. Should they be disturbed, the pteryx may decide to investigate… and perhaps even to begin a new purge.
Poisoned smoke from the Valley of Horrors has been drifting northward for months; normally an event that happens once every two to three years. As the smoke begins to affect the populace, the PCs are sent to the Valley of Horrors to investigate. There they discover that elves from Pynar have gained control of the volcanic vents and sent the deadly gasses across the rest of the Vesperlands. The PCs must put an end to their plot before more elves succumb to aberrant transformations.
Qalpiltyn Uunkys has recently been staging raids against the fortress of Qyssi on the shores of the Hypparq Sea. Such a rivalry will quickly destabilize the region, allowing potential rivals like the nation of Adhuza to take advantage of the elves. Unknown to all, Qalpiltyn Uunkys’ strange behavior is due to his love for the nixie queen of Hypparq. Because his love is genuine, the magic of the relic-keepers has not been able to divine the deception.
(Based on Otomi? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otomi_people )