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Coldspaceby John Calvin
Coldspace (Inner Sphere)
This sphere's sun is dying. Once a strong and vibrant fire body, the sun has decreased in size. The amount of light and heat that it puts out has decreased as well, turning once living worlds into cold, frozen wastelands.
The Nithians first colonised this sphere when their empire was at its height on Mystara, but since that time the sphere's sun has grown smaller and colder.
Now the Nithians left here have turned the worlds orbiting their star into vast slave labour camps. They intend to disassemble the planets and use the materials to construct another sphere around the star. This sphere will be made of stone, and much closer to the star so that the Nithians might once again feel its heat. Already they have constructed several small continent sized land masses that orbit the star. They do this by creating pyramid ships, flying them into orbit, and then connecting them together.
The stone continents are created by fusing together the bases of Nithian Garden ships and then removing the excess stone to reveal the sky above. These massive constructs can range greatly in size. Some are built with only a few Garden ships, while others (the older ones) can be composed of thousands.
Each continent is ruled by a Pharaoh. The Pharaoh, or his ancestors, is most likely the one who organised construction of the continent, and who sees that it continues to grow. The rate at which a continent grows is dependant upon two things. The number of helms available (to move a Garden ship from the surface of a planet to the orbit of the stone continent), and the number of slaves that are working in the stone quarries on the planets below.
Since slaves are in such high demand, travellers through this sphere are to be warned. It is not uncommon that unsuspecting foreigners are snatched up and put to work cutting rock for the rest of their lives. For this reason merchants who travel this space usually seek out the patronage of a powerful Pharaoh, someone who can keep them out of the chain gangs (most of the time).
Large Continent (typical):
One of the first Nithian attempts at building a habitat in space, this continent has swelled to an enormous size. Not only has its area been increased over the centuries, so has its depth (allowing for much deeper and more fertile soils).
There are currently four kingdoms occupying this continent. The first kingdom is ruled directly by the Pharaoh, and another two are ruled by his distant relatives (at one point in the past a Pharaoh divided his kingdom up amongst his children). The last kingdom is an addition to the continent. It was added when a smaller continent was conquered by the current Pharaoh, and control of the new land was granted to one of his younger sons.
Gateways have been constructed around the continent to help facilitate trade with the other large (and often far distant) orbiting continents. In addition to those portals, an inter-planar gateway to the plane of earth has also been constructed. Currently a small enclave of earth elementals is living on the continent while the Pharaoh conducts negotiations with their leader. The Pharaoh hopes to one day strike a bargain through which he will be able to transport materials directly from the plane of earth into his own realm.
Still, a few other portals link directly to the frozen planets so that materials can be brought to the continent without the use of a Garden ship (or the helm that drives it). This frees up the Garden ships for other purposes (like transporting troops and waging battles).
There are several other locations of interest on this orbiting continent: • The Tomb of the Kings - This impressive collection of temples and tombs is built at the very edge of this world. The walls that hold in the soil have simply been extended and modified to house the bodies (and treasure) of the Pharaohs of old. As the continent grew (and its depth increased) the older tombs were buried and newer ones built atop of them.
• The Narrow Bridge - A narrow stone bridge extends from the main continent to conquered territory. Much of the nation's expansion efforts will be made here as new bridges are constructed, and the void is eventually filled between the two continents.
• The Shallow Sea - Water is abundant in this crystal sphere (although most of it is frozen), and gigantic blocks of ice are sometimes brought to the continent and allowed to melt. Over the years a shallow sea has formed in the centre of the continent. This water is used throughout the land both for personal consumption and to irrigate crops. The sea actually resides in the oldest portion of the continent, and several ancient structures still stand beneath its surface.
• The Un-Walled Edge - Around the site of the continent's continued expansion exists an un-walled edge. The terrain of the land forms a gentle slope downwards until eventually the stone foundations of the "floor" can be seen.
In the distance is nothing but the void of wildspace.
Small Island (typical):
Hardly more than 5 Garden ships lashed together, this small island floating in space is a relatively new construction. The project was begun during the lifetime of the currently reigning Pharaoh.
A modest military is kept to fend off the predations of other similarly sized continents, and to perhaps help in the acquisition of slave labour.
A mid sized continent, Rathano-Hepthet is just starting to experiment with gateways, both to the ice planets, as well as with other orbiting continents.
One of the gates that the magicians of this nation are examining is a relic from before the sun grew dim. This is in fact a gateway created by their ancient Nithian ancestors. The gateway still functions, connecting the orbiting continent with the first planet in the Webspace sphere.
This is a standard sized earth body, now covered almost entirely in snow and ice. Before the sun went dim this was a lush and tropical world, and it supported much life. Now all of that life is gone, frozen beneath miles of ice. Only the Nithians remain, and they focus all of their endeavours towards slowly removing the planets mineral resources, much as one would skin an onion one layer at a time.
These vast scars in the land are essentially strip mining efforts on a planetary scale. Slave camps are maintained throughout the pits, and slaves send the resources that they mine up to the orbiting continents, either via a Garden ship, or through a portal of some kind.
Although the surface of the planet is frozen solid, its interior is not. These shafts pierce the planet all the way to its core, where there still exists molten rock. Small communities (mostly of wizards) still make their homes around the boreholes. The heat that is released from them warms the surrounding area enough that crops can be grown and life can continue in an almost normal fashion.
Some communities specialise in crafting (through the use of magic) stone objects using the molten rock as a raw material. Stone ships with complex hull designs are crafted in such a way.
The Carnifex, and their servitors, dominated this planet before the sun started getting cold. Once the Carnifex astronomers detected the shift in climate, the abandoned the world, though many of their servitors stayed. Now all trace of the Carnifex lies beneath sheets of ice, and most of their servitors have fallen prey to Nithian slavers.
This world is also used as a quarry by the Nithians, though it is farther from the sun, and even colder than Neb-Ur.
Man of War:
Floating in the void near the edge of the crystal shell is a derelict elven Man of War. Probably damaged and left for dead nearly 7000 years ago when the carnifex warred with the elves, the battered craft has been drifting in space ever since.
The crew is long since dead, their bones turned to dust, but there are still secrets to be found here.
This sphere is dominated mostly by humans of Nithian stock, and their slaves.
Pharaoh of a small island (no more than 5 Garden ships lashed together), Be-Ankh-Ra's reign is coming to an end. He is getting on in years, and has no male heirs, although he does have one daughter. The Pharaoh has been trying to marry her off to one of his neighbours in the hopes that he will be able to unify their islands and provide a greater legacy for his descendants.
Thass-akth is a young, but influential member of the saurian slave community in one of the quarry pits of Neb-Ur. For the past several years Thass-akth has been urging those under his influence to cooperate with the other communities of slaves in the quarry rather than propagating the atmosphere of rivalry that the Nithians foster. She has contacts (some say friends) in the elven and goblinoid camps, and is slowly trying to build up a network of resistance fighters in the hope of one day fighting off her Nithian oppressors. Any PCs that happen her way (as newly captured slaves) will surely be drawn into her confidence.
The captain of a small spelljamming vessel, Menketh is the leader of a small group of mercenary hobgoblins. He and his crew spend much of their time outside of the sphere gathering slaves for the massive projects undertaken by the pharaohs in the area. Menketh always makes a point of returning to the sphere with a full hold of slaves, lest his employers loose faith in his abilities and find "other work" for him to do (in the frozen quarries).
Buried deep beneath the ice of Horem-Ka lies an ancient Carnifex lich. Ghrathixes rules a vast underground complex of undead saurians and Nithians. Long ago, when the sun was just starting to cool in Coldspace, Ghrathixes was the leader of the dominant Carnifex clan in the area. Convinced that the Nithians were the cause behind the climate shift, Ghrathixes vowed revenge and sought to extend his life through undeath.
Unfortunately for the Carnifex lich the climate shift came faster than he expected and the planet froze solid. Now he is encased in an icy prison, but he waits patiently knowing that soon the Nithians themselves will free him. Once that happens he will unleash his undead hoards upon his ancient enemies.