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Hollow Moon Planetology: Blue Moon - Emergenceby Sharon Dornhoff
((Sean axed this post to save space, the first time, but I've gotten some e-mail asking what happened to #3a, so here it is again. Please excuse the overblown prose; I've been trying to give the HM a bit of a Dunsany-ish "feel".))
Emergence: A First Look
When a Voidship first rises from the darkness of Mare Orientale, what greets the passengers' eyes is yet another ring of mountains, surrounding the crater in a perfect mirror-image of the external Cordilleras. Indeed, the interior landscape of the Hollow Moon so closely corresponds to that of the outside, in its placement of seas and of exposed crystalbarrens, that one can use any map of the outer Matera -- or Luna -- for the layout of this new game-setting, by means of a mirror. Until an explorers' vessel has cleared the peaks of the craggy ring-mountains, nothing but pitch blackness can be distinguished in the emptiness beyond the peaks.
Then, the PCs ascend above the mountaintops... and behold the wonders of the Firmament.
Stretching off into the distance both north and south of the Orientale Peninsula, and rising up and away farwards to the outer limits of vision, the interior vista of the lunar Farside opens out overhead, curving around to meet itself in a crystalline dome half as vast as the continent of Brun, itself. On the night of a new moon, this incredible expanse of translucent mineral-flats glimmers with a subtle, deeply-embedded radiance: a soft, eerie, unearthly-luminous glow of refracted, penetrating sunlight, in only the deepest blues, greens and violets. Cracks and blemishes hidden within the crystal -- invisible to onlookers in orbit, from the outside -- are thrown into razor-sharp contrast by this light, as they branch forth from Mare Orientale in a frost-feathered mosaic that reaches thousands of miles across the Farside's dome. Dimmed and colour-shifted by its passage through thirty miles of dense, cracked, imperfectly-transparent crystal, the faint indigo illumination of the Firmament's meagre "sunlight" is barely enough to render visible the stark profiles of mountain ranges, the liquid shimmer of wave-tossed seas, and the cold gleam of ice-rimed crystalbarrens that spread out over the Nearside, beneath it.
Dim-lit or not, it's a panorama well worth the seeing. With no interior sun to obscure one's view of distances, as there is in the Hollow World, sharp eyes can actually distinguish the entirety of the Nearside without need of spell or spyglass. Cradled in a vast "bowl" of inner landscape, the nearward realms' most-prominent features are as readily recognised -- dropping away gently, like a never-ending and much-eroded mountainside, to a depth of some thousand miles at the "bowl's" centre; only to rise upward to the Nearside's far-off opposite rim, and meet the crystal Firmament once more -- as are our own moon's maria, at over two hundred times that distance. By the sub-lunarean "day" of the new moon, as the Firmament glows its brightest, valleys, canyons, and raging rivers may be glimpsed, amongst the towering Jura Peaks and the expansive Stofler-Walter-Purbach-Arzachel Range, by the faint blue light; the effect is much like being inside an ice-tunnel on a Mystaran glacier into which only traces of blue light penetrate ... albeit a tunnel as big as an entire world! At fulldark, when the Farside's dome of crystal lies in shadow, only the eldritch luminescence of the light-capturing corals in the easter and equatorial maria, the lantern-adorned cities of men and Cacklogallinians on the shores of Mare Foecunditatis, and the infernal red heat of the Apennines and other unquiet volcanoes, reveal the nighted contours of the lunar world.
Close by, where the Orientale Peninsula roots itself on the Nearside's rim, the black-crowned pine forests of Stygia cover the highlands, grim and foreboding, between the Cordilleras and the murky Mare Humorum. To the north, the largest and most-trackless of the crystalbarrens -- open regions of icy, inhospitable bedrock -- sprawls across fully one-seventh of the Nearside's inner surface: the Oceanus Procellarum, hunting-ground and homeland of the nomadic cryions and their traditional nemeses, desert ghosts. On its far shores rises Mount Copernicus -- tallest mountain in the Hollow Moon at 37,000 feet -- while along the northernmost coast of Procellarum, the Juras' volcanic fires belie the arctic climes of Mare Frigoris. Maria Imbrium and Serenitatis, whose crystal ground gives way to liquid seas beyond the Haemus Islands, keep the rapacious Qaurikkas and frost salamanders of Frigoris at bay from the equatorial midlands, and flank the steam-enshrouded Apennines and Caucasus Mountains east and west. In the Lull Times, Modrigswerg of the Caucasus have been known to welcome traders who brave the trek from the Rimlands; brooding in their timeless aeries, the pteryx share no such hospitality, Storm Time or Lull.
Past the perils of Stygia, beyond Humorum, the southern outlands' forests teem with goblinoids that relish the eternal night, heedless of the hsiao who look upon their squabblings with a benign, scholarly contempt. On the islands of Fra Mauro in the Mare Nubium, the relict culture of Patera's pre-Imperial rakastas fish the crater-lakes and sing an oral history of time immemorial. Behind the Straight Wall, a manmade barrier against cryion depredation, the far-more-predatory kopru of the mountains tug discreetly on the strings of their grand puppet empire -- its befuddled, non-kopru inhabitants, hiding their mental subjugation behind a facade of placid civility. Only the constant vigilance of the Deslandren kouprey-ranchers to the west, and the ferocious guerrilla warfare of Shaergarde to the east, has kept this taint of imperialist mind-manipulation from spreading further.
In Shaergarde and the Vesperlands, explorers may at last find those the elves and hin of Mystara may call kin; in the latter realm, on the shores of Simus Medii, descendants of the Schattenalfen who refused Atzanteotl's enticements have found a world in which their affinities for endless darkness and for the out-of-doors are not at odds. Near the vesper elves, the broken marshy promontories of "the Rilles" are a damp refuge for the lupins' eldest and most-overlooked of forebearers ... the one breed of Hutaaka-kind which Pflarr would gladly have the world forget. In Sinus Medii and the waters surrounding, an ancient, vanished race of sea-dwellers -- known to present-day Mystarans only by their dead -- waits in eagerness within siliceous-coral halls for their next sign of favour from the Immortals.
Out beyond Tranquillitatis, south of the Wallaran dreamscapes and the arid steppes of Sohktar, the shark-kin of Mare Crisium's shorelines prosper on the land, even as their fellows do, beneath the distant Mare Humorum's waters. Tranquillitatis, though deep and coral-rich, lacks inhabitants of its own; the mysterious, shadowed citadel of Maskelyne casts a gloom across the waters, which even the gnomes of the Taurus Mounts feel little drive to investigate. Certainly the witch-wary margasta tribes, who claim the trifold isthmus between Tranquillitatis, Foecunditatis and Nectaris, believe the dour city's island to be cursed. They believe the same -- and rightly -- of the far shores of Foecunditatis, where many in the montane villages of yaks and goatherds are as human as you or I. Those of Vedal who are not, of course, prey upon those who are.
More forgotten cousins of Pflarr's children roam the dry Rhieta savannahs south of Foecunditatis -- ancestors of the Graakhalian newcomers in the Janssen Badlands, although joyfully unaware of the fact. Their other neighbours, the phanatrels of the Nectaris shores, labour with equal joy for the Altai Scarp's gracious araneas, innocent of any reason they should dispute their arachnid patrons' wisdom. Both welcomed and well-sated, in a world where giant insects are a more common livestock than cattle, the Hollow Moon's spider-folk need not hide their natures; indeed, their silken windships are greeted with enthusiasm by the trade-cities of the Cacklogallinians, and they are much sought after as tutors by mages of all species. Farward of Sohktar, the Redlands' peninsula extends beyond the rim into lands they would not be so accepted in, but that region of poison soils and distorted life is inaccessible by windship: though the Savage Coast's nocturnal races also have their refuge, Ka and his allies will not let the contamination of the Red Curse breach the Nearside's rim.
Of all these lands, and of those reaches of the Hollow Moon unknown and undescribed, no more than a handful count human beings among their populace. Lacking infravision or the superior senses of lupins and rakasta, humans fare poorly in this place; only four cultures of humans or near-humans have been carried to this setting by the Immortals, and only once -- the Nephthisian Exodus -- have they come here by their own methods. Deslandres and Vedal, Cynidicea and Qaurikka, and the albheldri islands of Haemus all have human populations; and the trade-cities welcome anyone with talent to sell or money to spend ... but the Hollow Moon is, first and foremost, a land of races far better-suited to this realm's eternal twilight. Whether or not human PCs can overcome the limitations of their vision and the scepticism of others to become respected, or are disdained as near-blind clods -- or whether they get themselves lynched as suspected bhuts or lycanthropes -- remains to be seen, in the adventures to come.