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Friday, April 18, 2014

#MtG's #Zendikar plane as a #13thAge setting - Part 4: Locations


One idea that I vented in my brainstorming on Icons (a post that I removed from the project, to avoid confusion), was that of having some locations in zendikar act exactly like Icons. That is, you can have positive, conflicted, or negative relationships with these places. It works in Zendikar, because the world is literally much more alive than your standard fantasy setting. So I would definitely allow some characters to have bonds to some places, if their story or their concept justifies so.

However, it must be said that even in Zendikar, locations are rather static. Maybe you come up with an awesome reason for which your Merfolk Sorcerer is really hated by the mysterious Jhwar Island, but then what happens if the campaign stirs away from it, and maybe doesn't even touch the nearby continent of Ondu? Rather disappointing.

So basically I'll just talk about locations, starting with the ones cited in the Detailed Icons section, and if relevant, I'll add info about using the whole location as an Icon. After all, it can also make sense for certain small communities to be in good or bad relationships with ceratin individuals, and if they are active communities, it means by extension to have such a relationship with its people.

Here we go! Text in italics comes from the source material, copyright Wizards of The Coast!

CONTENTS
(Tazeem continent)

 - 1 - The Enclave
 - 2 - The Magosi Portage
 - 3 - Sea Gate
 - 4 - The Depths of Halimar
 - 5 - Oran Rief, The Vastwood
(Ondu continent)
 - 1 - Zulaport (Beyeen island)
 - 2 - Kabira (Agadeem island)
(Bala Ged sub-continent)
 - 1 - Bojuka Bay (and Bojuka Bastion)
(Murasa island-continent)
 - 1 - Sunder Bay (and Tumbled Palace)


___________________________________________________

The Enclave

Built on a large island in the middle of one of the widest sections of the Umara River, the Merfolk Enclave is a hive-like structure of rooms that look like bathing halls, corridors, and sleeping chambers. The Enclave is made from a rock that resembles pale sandstone that has glittering crystals embedded in it. Merfolk must be born in the water, so many merfolk return to the Enclave to find a mate or to give birth. While many merfolk consider the Enclave to be their home, most don't live there full time.



Hosting a sizeable population, a detachment of the Academy, the Enclave Elite headquarters, and even the Council, a political entity of relevance for Sea Gate, the Enclave is arguably the second most important location and community in Tazeem, after Sea Gate itself.

Icons and organizations

The Enclave is home to The Enclave Cryptologist, of course, and sporadically sees the presence of The Loremaster, who was born there and is a honorary member of The Council.
The Enclave Elite is the closest thing to a police corp for Sea Gate and the Enclave itself. It follows the guidance of the Council but also enjoys a fair degree of independence, and has a second base in Sea Gate, where the court of law is located.

Structure and appearance

From the outside, the Enclave looks like a stronghold composed of a single tower, the large height of which is masked only by the bulky design, required to host inside it the hive-like structure required for nurseries.
Despite its considerable size, the visible part of the Enclave is but the tip of an iceberg: the underwater levels are numerous and equally big, and they are protected by natural rock more often than by masonry work, since they mostly lie within the island's rock.

Protection and environmental safety

The stronghold is not actually built with serious applied military thought. In fact, there are no true enemies except fr the environment itself, which is warded off magically by properties of the structure and its very position in space, devised thanks to the Roil Sense of Zendikar's Merfolk.
Dangerous creatures that may pose a danger are mostly underwater, with ho way inside the structure. 
There are also a few falcons' and drakes' nests in the cliffs on the banks of the Umara, but they mostly respect the self-defense capabilities of the Enclave, mostly due to the presence of the quite dangerous Elite corps, and the wizards of the Academy's detachment.
Lullmages also make sure that the occasional Roil storms do not damage the structure, or the few docked ships that might happen to be present.

As an Icon

The Enclave as an Icon would include the Council and the Elite. The Academy detachment is more connected to Sea Gate. Having a positive relationship with the Enclave would mean being well known for adhering to, and occasionally an enforcer of, the laws of Sea Gate, and by extension the laws of all civilized Zendikar. The Council also doubles up as a religious institution for the Merfolk, so a positive relationship could also entail the sympathies of those Merfolk that have a spiritual sensitivity. Favors could include free hosting, cures, and cheap food, on location, or a good reputation and less inquisitive eyes around the civilized communities of Zendikar, at least those in contact with Sea Gate. In fact, while definitely civilized, the vampires of Guul Draz would instead keep a wary eye out for those that are so famously favored by the Enclave. Anti-vampire laws and dictates are written engraved into solid stone...
A negative relationship would of course have the contrary effect, with predictable outcomes, (but no particular benefit with the vampires, except with the Ghet family in Nimana, the Free City, perhaps)
A conflicted relationship could be of a few different types. One or two among the religious, legal, or academic poles of the Enclave could view you as a problem, with the other or others having a more positive attitude. Depending on which pole of the Enclave is "more conflicted in the conflicted relationship", the outcomes will vary accordingly. The Enclave Cryptologist, for example, is well liked by the Academy detachment, not liked at all by the legal pole represented by the Elite and the lawmakers of the Council, and on some sort of "tense neutrality" with the spiritual leaders of the Council.


The Magosi Portage

Magosi is the largest waterfall along the river at almost 300 feet tall. No one has ever made it over the falls alive in a watercraft. The portage near the top of waterfall is a popular resting point for nomadic groups of various races; there are always traders and other explorers camped at the portage. In the inner continent, this is the best place to trade for pathway stones, supplies, and merfolk spell scrolls. Everyone travelling down the gorge must pass through the Magosi portage, but it is still a dangerous spot to spend the night. People routinely disappear in the night, and there are rumors of a massive, tentacled creature that lives behind the waterfall.



There are many portages along the Umara river, built in order to let boats pass through the various rapids and cascades of the mostly-tumultuous river. The one at Magosi, "the Waterveil", the largest cascade in Zendikar, is of course the most important, and is an important trading post, with a semi-permanent and very diverse community.

Icons and organizations

There is no permanent or even temporary home of any of the Icons at the Magosi Portage, but it's not uncommon to receive news of sightings of The Acquisitor, who may probably sneak into the Portage's market under disguise, to trade stolen goods.
There are also founded rumors of a big cave complex beneath the mesa that hosts Magosi, with a probable secret entrance behind the cascade itself. And less founded rumors speak of nothing less than one of The Five dwelling behind The Waterveil. It may be connected to the disappearances at The Portage, or maybe these normal disappearances (normal for Zendikar at least) have spawned the rumor of the demonic presence. Nobody knows for sure.
Speaking of Organizations, the Tazeem Expeditionary House is informally based here, since its leader, Piqua, is based here. And this is one of Magosi's attractive points for adventurers of all kinds, even if the Tazeem Expeditionary has been heavily outperformed by its "step-child", the Sea Gate-based Halimar Expeditionary House, thus becoming a "second class" Expeditionary House, more on par with the single man's effort of Javad Nasrin, the famous Ondu relic hunter.
There is also a small Merfolk community under Magosi, inhabiting underwater caves and using the energy of the cascade for mills and other simple machinery. They have a fairly good relationship with The Enclave, since one of the Council religious members comes from this community, and manages to make its people's requests heard, when needed.

Structure and appearance

The Portage has a quite complex and big structure to land watercrafts and transport them down the gorge towards the next navigable segment of the Umara, leading to the North of Tazeem.
Floating islands are common around the area, although they shift and travel quite a bit, so they never look the same. The vicinity of Emeria, the Sky Ruin, is apparent, although the most central pieces of it usually can't be seen from here, in normal conditions, probably due to the "tamed" Roil, around the Umara river.
The community itself is made by temporary housings, mostly tents, and a few wooden cabins, such as the one were the Tazeem Expeditinary House is informally based.
The market is perhaps the most permanent structure: a round cobblestone-paved field where the traders build their stands and park their carts, surrounded by stables and  even a few landing hook (ropes that "fall upwards" thanks to a periodic lull-magic ritual) for Kor kitesails and thopters.

Protection and environmental safety

The Roil can be pesky around Magosi, as the floating islands testify, but here saftey issues are less environmental in nature. People disappear regularly, and apart from rumors of demonic creatures inhabiting the caves, or a tentacled horror of some type, nobody has come up with sensible explanations. 
The Enclave Elite occasionally comes to check the area, but they seem to do so following a very light routine, as if scared of investigating too deep.
The Roil is quite tame along the Umara, for some yet-to-be-understood reason. As such, the environment itself doesn't pose much of a danger. The fauna is also quite tame in the area, with the exception of whatever is making people disappear, if it is to be considered a wild animal.

As an Icon

To have a positive relationship with the Magosi Portage means to have it with at least a good part of the scattered Tazeem Expeditionary House. They don't organize many expeditions as of late, shadowed by the much better funded Halimar Expeditionary, but their leader Piqua is still one of the most famous Tazeem adventurers. It also means being hosted in one of the more permanent and safer housings of the settlement, when passing by, and it could mean knowing quite a lot of regular Tazeem nomads, traders, and travelers. 
To have a negative relationship could mean that these people don't like you for some reason, and you could have problems in all of Tazeem, if encountering them.
A conflicted relationship might mean a disparity between the views of the Tazeem Expeditionary and the traders and nomads, or that among both you have supporters, but not unanimously. 



Halimar isn't a natural sea. Surrounded on three sides by rocky cliffs, the fourth side is enclosed by the ancient Sea Gate. The seawall is more than 500 feet tall with a white-stone cylindrical tower (now used as a lighthouse) that soars an additional 350 feet into the air. Collectively, the seawall and lighthouse are known as the Sea Gate, the largest settlement in Tazeem.



Sea Gate is the closest thing to a hub of civilization in Zendikar. Excluding the vampire metropolis of Malakir, in Guul Draz, it's also by far the most populous city. It encloses the important inland sea of Halimar, which despite its dangerous and sometimes colossal aquatic fauna, and the frequently Roil-infused waters, producing whirpools and "living tsunamis" as spectacular as deadly, is considered the safest way to get to the Umara river gorge, and thus to the safest trade-route of Tazeem. As such, the Halimar hosts a considerable sea traffic, even underwater due to the Merfolk community of the Depths.
Sea Gate is also a nexus of knowledge thanks to its Lighthouse, which besides being an impressive landmark with its twenty high-ceiling floors, hosts the Great Library and the main detachment of the Academy.

Icons and organizations

Sea Gate is home to the Loremaster and the Chronologist. Both of them move very little: the Loremaster occasionally visits the Enclave, and the Chronologist actually never leaves the city at all. It's also recently become home to the Lightcaster, for whom the Chronologist has built a beautiful oracle-temple in the city, although she periodically leaves it to go on typical Kor pilgrimages around Zendikar.
The city also hosts the headquarters of the Halimar Expeditionary House, led by the still very active, although "senior" adventurer Zahr Gada, said to have survived the worst that Tazeem has to offer in terms of dangers and to have reaped the best it has to offer in terms of relics.
The Halimar Expeditionary is probably the richest of the expeditionary houses of Zendikar, and perhaps because of this, it is "stalked" by a rogue organization, suspected to be linked to private parties of traders who are actually more pirates than traders. The organization has no name, but is famous for generating a lot of negative buzz surrounding the Halimar Expeditionary, by "exposing their darkest deeds", most of the time making them up, although not always. The organization is thought to double-up as some kind of thieves' guild, and because of this, the Enclave Elite has started an investigation to discover their hideouts, the identity of the members, and especially its leader, but for now they have had no luck.
In fact, nobody would suspect a Kabira evangel, like Father Rami, of running such a business...
Father Rami is also in charge of the Sea Gate parish of the Church of Ondu, which attracts quite a lot of faithfuls, although the true citizens of Sea Gate are much less concerned about faith than about money and knowledge.
Besides the quarters for the Sea Gate constable of the Enclave Elite, and the attached corps, the city also counts with the Sea Gate Militia, composed mostly of merfolk, and counting with both aquatic and aerial manta-ray cavalry. They mostly camp outside of the city, to deal preemptively with threats coming from the Oran Rief surrounding the two lands sides of the city. Some of them are instead constantly hunting for drakes, to try and keep the population down, something they never manage as much as they would like. When dragons show up instead of drakes, the Militia has to start recruiting campaigns...
There is something akin to an aristocracy of Sea Gate, but it doesn't act a lot like one. Administrators, judges and other important figures often come from these few "privileged" families, but more often than not, the aristocrats are just rich people who live their life in the safest housings (because between the drakes and dragons from above, the sea monsters from below, and the Roil storms all over, safety is an issue in Sea Gate), and that accumulate the highest number of relics. Some of them turn part of their mansions into museums, making the mercenaries that they need anyway as body guards double up as museum guards. Others keep the objects for themselves, not even letting the Lighthouse scholars study them. And finally some others have become famous for wasting precious objects while having wild parties. 
Minor organizations raise and fall in Sea Gate at a fast pace: the same fast pace at which adventurers come and go, rise and die.

Structure and appearance

The area on top of the sea wall, where the city is built, is approximately twenty acres. However, building in sea gate are nested one on top of each other, and the density of population is thus very high. The narrow streets and bridges are also covered, to protect the citizens from the numerous drakes that are constantly on the prowl in the skies above. Because of these features, Sea Gate sometimes look like one big sophisticated building with many levels, many roofs, and mixing chaos with order. The sea wall, the actual gate, and the tower of the Lighthouse are much older than the city, and yet they seem much more solid and they are the pieces of the structure that convey more sense of order and harmony. Nobody knows who built them or when, but their white limestone surfaces are a beauty to behold, and their incredible structural strength, which has withstood the Roil for countless centuries, are proofs that the civilization that built them was actually advanced, perhaps more than the one of current Zendikar.

Protection and environmental safety

Environmental safety is taken care of by a "turtle-up strategy": every single square foot of Sea Gate is roofed. All the student and teaching lullmages of the Academy are also an integral part of Sea Gate environmental safety, "lulling" the Roil, and diverting the fiery breaths of the occasional dragon.
When the dragons land though, there is little that lullmages can do, if not protecting as much as they can the Sea Gate Militia, until the manta-ray cavalry manages to stop or drive away the living engines of destruction.
Crime is also an issue in Sea Gate, and the Enclave Elite not always does a good job at keeping it low. Most of the times, one of the many parties of random adventurers does a much better job, and they become the heroes of the week.

As an Icon

There is no having positive or negative relationship with the whole of Sea Gate.
Its single organizations can be associated to icons.
The Loremaster represents the Great Library and the Lighthouse Academy.
The Chronologist represents the actual government of the city.
The Lightcaster represents the city's oracle.
The Enclave Elite can be treated as a minor icon, as described above in The Enclave entry.
Father Rami is an ambiguous minor icon representing both the parish church and the rogue organization opposed to the Halimar Expeditionary, which could also be the city's thieves' guild.
The Halimar Expeditionary House can be treated as a minor icon, as also for sure its leader Zahr Gada.



The Depths of Halimar

"Ula is a "pure" merfolk who dwells at the bottom of Halimar. He is the true ruler of water realm: the seas, the oceans, rivers and lakes. The same upheaval that destroyed Em's castle also robbed Ula of his memory, but it left him with the knowledge of the task he must complete, the wrong he must avenge. He swims endlessly through the Halimar trying to rediscover what he was meant to do. Ula's Guardians are two massive leviathans who protect Ula as he swims aimlessly through the dark water."
—Chronicles of Ula




The Depths of Halimar, or just the Depths, refer to a deep Merfolk community, hosting only a small permanent population, but seeing some coming and going of other merfolks and even magically-diving terrestrial humanoids due to its ruins, its massive hedrons, and its temple dedicated to Ula, the merfolk god of the sea.

Icons and Organizations

The merfolk of the Depths keep to themselves, and even if the community around the Ula temple is not the only one, and there are actually more populated communities a little farther (it is said to be difficult to live near the temple, for obscure reasons), there is no known organization keeping these communities together.
The merfolk of the Depths being less "contaminated" by the human and kor world, they keep to their strongly individualistic tendencies, and even when they accept merfolk from the overworld, they assume that they leave behind any sense of belonging to any group, and come to contemplate Ula as individuals devoid of links to anything or anyone other than themselves and the god.
There is however an Icon said to live somewhere around the Depths: the Acquisitor, who should have her hideout there. The deep merfolk and their relics are actually often preys of her heists, so they are actively hunting her, but they never found her hideout.

Structure and Appearance

The few lucky souls who can actually see the Depths are in for a true eye-opener. Countless hedrons of all sizes, many of which are among the largest of all Zendikar, form a field that, contrary to most hedron fields of the globe, has some sense of order to it, which merfolk obviously attribute to Ula.
The actual temple of Ula is elevated on top of an enormous pillar, and surrounded by three "great roads", which merfolk painstakingly walk instead of swim, to reach the center of the temple in a state of great fatigue said to trigger trances.
Colossal gomazoas, half-plant gas-filled creatures resembling very solid giant jellyfishes, guard the area from leviathans, and are fed by the merfolk with large aquatic game, offered as sacrifices of non-religious nature: basically a payment for the creatures' security service. Other species of gomazoas can dwell even in the skies of Zendikar, but none ever reaching the size of the abyssal ones surrounding the Ula temple.

Protection and environmental safety

The Depths are among the safest locations you could find in all Zendikar, both from the point of view of monsters and predators, and Roil effects. What's surely much less safe is the way to get there, which is the reason there are not any new settlers coming to the Depths, but only occasional (very expert) adventurers. An abyssal mount and some strong lull-magic are the minimum requirements even for Merfolk to get there. For other humanoids, an awful lot of water-savvy magic is needed.

As an Icon

The interesting thing of the Depths is that you could have a link with the community even by never visiting it, but building a good (or bad) reputation among the deep merfolk that travel on the surface.
Although they have little influence outiside the Halimar, to have a good relationship with the Depths means having a much easier life in the Halimar, even on the surface. And of course it also means much higher chances to actually visit the Ula's Temple, which is quite literally the wet dream of many a Zendikar adventurer...
A negative relationship is perhaps easier to achieve: kill one deep merfolk, and all the deep merfolk will know, since they are so few. The outcome of such a relationship could be very bad, especially for any Halimar-bound ship you could be sailing on.


A transient community of mages, explorers, and artisans, of mixed races and origins, lives on the coast of Beyeen in a town called Zulaport. The economy of Zulaport is believed to be controlled to a powerful vampire named Indorel, who uses a network of goblin, human, and ogre thugs to ensure herself a cut of all the trade that happens around Beyeen.

Art not from Wizards of The Coast - "coast", by 0BO
Zulaport is the main commercial hub of Ondu, although it's not located on the Ondu mainland, but on the nearby volcanic island of Beyeen. The ashes that are constantly blown up from the Valakut, "the Molten Pinnacle", the largest volcano of the chain, make the air hard to breathe in Zulaport, and the skies constantly gloomy. Maybe also thanks to this, trading goods can be either very cheap, or cost you your life in Zulaport: its darkness matches the hearts of most of its inhabitants and travelers, and it's easily the most violent outpost in the West of Zendikar.

Icons and Organizations

Nearly everybody in Zulaport, at least those that want to have some life expectancy, knows that the city is basically under the control of a ruthless and cunning vampire named Indorel. 
It is not known if she works for one of the Bloodchiefs or not, but since trade  with Guul Draz is rather limited, mainly due to distance, and Tazeem lying basically between the two continents, most people think that if there ever was some link between her and the Bloodchiefs, it might be long gone.
The Ondu Expeditionary House has very few grips in Zulaport, and basically only low-profile private parties, such as the one of the famous Ondu relic hunter Javad Nasrin, can realistically hope to use Zulaport to their advantage, instead of to their ruin.
The Acquisitor, being literally the most low-profile adventurer in Zendikar, is said to have quite the easy life in Zulaport, but, unsurprisingly, few people if any claim to see her there, and even when they do, it might be the grog in their veins speaking in stead of their heads.
The closest things to organizations, apart (but not unliked) from Indorel's web, are the Zulaport Enforcers, and the Zulaport Runners. The Enforcers are basically the local police force, and the Runners are a group of magic-using warriors and assassins able to use very specific dark magic to conceal themselves and travel quickly and safely around Beyeen, retrieving primary resources, or occasionally slaying those foolish enough to try to steal and hide from some local trader, or from Indorel herself.

Structure and Appearance

Zulaport is all about practicality over appearance: It's basically a bunch of low and low quality shacks and abodes filling all the (not many) possible building spots along the rough volcanic-rock coast.
As much as the port is built in a practical way, the coast's  features are all but practical for vessels to approach. Spiky solidified-lava rocks come out of the sea like black bubbly waves frozen in place, and in fact, they are born like this, when lava sprouting from the underwater vents meets the Roil currents, charged with black and blue mana, freezing them into exact images of the Roil's currents that agitate the sea.
Only a very narrow spot is actually safe for vessels to approach, and the fortune of Zulaport sometimes comes more from the vessel that don't make it to the shore, than from those that do, and trade...
Instead of a proper lighthouse, Zulaport relies on the wild mana of the area to light up large and water-proof magical flames on top of tall pedestals, which are in turn placed on top of the highest buildings. The effect of these flames agitated endlessly by the strong gales coming from the sea, manages to make even these few lights add to the gloom of Zulaport.

Protection and Environmental Safety

Even with the Roil,  the wild mana, the unforgiving weather, and the rough nature of its coastline, Zulaport manages to be a relatively safe spot, environmentally speaking, at least for Beyeen standards. Or it wouldn't be the active commercial outpost that it is.
It's also relatively well protected by the infamous Zulaport Enforcers, which are basically mercenaries turned into a rather stable military force thanks to the taxes on commerce that the inhabitants and the travelers are very willing to pay, to be safer from the attacks of lith wurms that can sprout up from the very volcanic rock of the coast, the fire drakes from the Boilbasin, giant condors not willing to wait for preys to die before eating them, and especially from the numerous pirates that believe they can take advantage of Zulaport's lawlessness. Zulaport might be lawless, but it's not order-less: the trade would suffer from lack of order, and the Zulaport Enforcers basically protect trade, much more than people, in Zulaport. If this makes Zulaport safer for people, it's more of an unintended side-effect.

As an Icon 

Having a good relationship with Zulaport usually means having a good relationship with Indorel. The Runners and the Enforcers are unlikely to favor anybody who is not completely inside the group, or is not paying directly for their services, so they can't be considered as Icons.
To have a negative relationship with Zulaport (or Indorel), means having lots of trouble even outside of Zulaport, wherever the web of contacts of Indorel or the Zulaport traders reach (and it reaches as far as Sea Gate, and Bojuka Bay), let alone making it obviously impossible to land a foot in Zulaport without being mercilessly attacked.



Bojuka Bay

Bojuka Bay is less a bay and more a giant marsh that developed inside the Guum Wilds. Initially an inlet, the prolific flora of the Guum Wilds overtook the water creating a vast swampy region. The Bojuka Bay serves as the mouth of the Umung River and is home to fearsome marsh trolls as well as the Grotag goblins.
Art not from Wizards of The Coast - "Secret Place", by LucasParolin
The Bojuka Bay is the only non-elven point of (little) civilization of Bala Ged. Its inhabitants include the Grotag Goblins, and those pirates of all races that feel the need of hiding even from very tolerant ports such as the relatively near Nimana, The Free City. The combination of dangers coming from the always-advancing wilderness and the opportunist when not downright criminal population is unique in Zendikar, rivaled perhaps only by Zulaport in its bad fame.

Icons and Organizations

Nobody has power over Bojuka Bay, except perhaps the biggest troll chief, which given the nature of trolls, is an ever-changing figure, the title passing from one to another as they either eat each other or fall prey of something not as power-hungry, but definitely hungry.
The Surrakar don't dwell far from the place, but voluntarily avoid the settled areas and the pirates' coves, preferring the bogs, the inland jungle, and the caves.
It is said that one of The Five may also be quite near Bojuka Bay, but it could be a rumor spread by The Vindicator to dissuade Onduan "traders" from migrating there, thus escaping his area of jurisdiction.
It is however a dangerous rumor to spread, because if one or more of The Five were not aware of the opportunities in Bojuka Bay before, they surely know now.
The Bala Ged Expeditionary House is also based here, but apart from the brief moment of glory it had when a young Ruin Sage was among its ranks, it is a largely irrelevant expeditionary house, leaderless, practically up for acquisition by any adventurer brave enough to make an organization stand out in Bojuka Bay.
The Grotag Goblins are the essence of dis-organization, and although they follow their tribal rules, since these establish that the rights of bossing others derive from the ferociousness or size of the beasts that the aspirant leaders can tame and ride, the chain of command rapidly becomes a food chain instead, just as with the marsh trolls. So if you don't consider a timescale smaller than one week or two, it is safe to say there is no leader between the Grotag, and no actual organization, although they do tend to help each other against enemies, when the enemies are not overpowering (which is nearly always the case against Grotags, by the way).

Structure and Appearance

The few buildings of Bojuka Bay are ratty wooden stilt-shacks with built-in quays for easy embarking and disembarking. There is however one rock structure, probably built by the same civilization that built the Sea Gate in Tazeem. It resembles it in style and function, being a large, polished stone bastion, dividing the main outlet of the Umung River in two, and offering a dominating position over that important trade-route. However, the bastion has been literally submersed by the late wave of wooden building, and there is no actual center of power in the bastion, or the connected hanging settlements on the near promontories. As such, what could have been the only true beacon of order in Bojuka Bay, has actually become a symbol of its decadence and uncontrollable social entropy, matched only by the entropy of the surrounding rain-forest.
Art not from Wizards of The Coast - "Quarrytown" by JoshEiten

Protection and Environmental Safety

The Roil in Bala Ged takes the form of a constant unnatural growth of vegetation, punctuated by random and frequent episodes of "dire blossoming", in which the already too active and too alive growth becomes the vegetable equivalent of a marauding horde of barbarians. And Bojuka Bay is no exception, although you must also add the Roil of the Umung River, the bog, and the sea, to the arcane equation. Th result is the reason for which no building except for the old unnamed bastion has ever resisted for long in Bojuka Bay, and everything and everyone lives here with a sense of non-permanency. The adapted fauna thrives with each Roil peak, and the safest place to be in those moments is just as far as possible from anything and everything alive.
There is obviously no militia or self-appointed protection force in Bojuka Bay, but basically every inhabitant is out for him or herself. Not being able to proficiently use a machete both as offense against the jungle and defense against its predators, means not being able to survive the night in Bojuka Bay.
And speaking about the nights, they get so dangerous that it's commonplace for the Bojukans to light up impressively big and numerous bonfires each and every night, on each surface available for doing so, and most nights, at least one or two stilt-houses burn in the frenzy of lighting up the night and keeping the rest of the settlements relatively safe from predatory baloths, giant boas, stray vampires and null zombies, or just the moving vegetation itself, such as the unpredictable vengevine. The results of these bonfires are nights of revelries that end up costing the life to a number of drunk Bojukans, ending up falling into the murky waters or dueling in the intense heat of the fires, burning in the already sweltering air of torrid Bala Ged, that some think letting the wild beasts in would actually cause less damage.

As an Icon

Being deprived of the influence of true Icons, Bojuka Bay can actually be an interesting icon itself.
Having a Positive Relationship with Bojuka Bay usually means being liked both by the Grotag goblins and by the majority of the pirates. being far from cohesive forces, this will never mean being able to summon a decent number of them to one's side in difficult times, but it means perhaps something more important than that: a relatively safe passage into and out of Bojuka Bay.
Having a Negative Relationship is far more relevant, because at that point, you will find Bojukans and pirates actively trying to murder you even outside Bojuka Bay, just because it's fun.
Having Conflicted Relationships usually means nothing specific, and more than in other cases, it could mean very simply having moments in which the relationship behaves exactly as a Positive one and others in which it's definitely indistinguishable from a Negative. This is the fickle nature of the people of Bojuka Bay.
A community of humans and other races has encamped near the Agadeem hedron fields, some to study the ruins, some to loot them, and some to worship them. The influence of the nearby ruins is clear in the architecture of the settlement; the architecture of Kabira mimics and incorporates the shapes and glyphs from the stone hedrons. A merfolk cleric-scholar named Viniva runs the Kabira Conservatory here, a small academy which sponsors research of the hedron ruins and passes on what it learns to the Lighthouse at Sea Gate. Some of the Conservatory's recent research concerns the way that certain types of magic—particularly healing, protection, and some types of illusion—respond best near the hedron fields. Others have studied the hedron-mimicking architecture, claiming that, far from a simple artistic trend, it may actually represent a deep safety problem for the denizens of Kabira.


Kabira is the second most-important city in Zendikar, culturally-wise. Its Kabira Conservatory and its role as the holy see of the Church of Ondu make it one of the most important settlements for Humans, Kor, and Merfolk alike, and a beacon of the forces of order in Zendikar.
However, the recent arise of The Vindicator as the most prominent figure of the Church of Ondu, and his "brave" attitude towards the arcane secrets locked in the Hedron Field of Agadeem and in hedrons in general, are making Kabira some kind of an arcane time-bomb, especially since its archtectural mimicking of the hedron runes probably exposes it to unknown dangers.

Icons and Organizations

The Vindicator is the most important Icon connected to Kabira and the Church of Ondu. There are no other organizations that can have a considerable power in Kabira, given the incumbency of both the Church fo Ondu and the Kabira Conservatory. The latter is tied both to the Lighthouse Academy of Sea Gate (and the Loremaster), and the Church of Ondu (which is to say the Vindicator). As such, it is often paralyzed in its researches by the contrasting influences on its activities, and when it does act, it's often in a disorganized way that tends to be neither what the Vindicator nor the Loremaster exactly wanted. This is probably because of the eccentric nature of its rector, Viniva, who, true to her Merfolk nature, is deeply individualistic, and uses her smarts and her connections to always try and direct the Conservatory along a unique path, detached from the large players that would like to control it.

Structure and Appearance

Kabira's archtecture is famous throughout Zendikar for being the only one that purposefully mimics the hedrons, and apart from this it's also the most majestic creation of civilized races in Zendikar's recent times, being Sea Gate and other big structures such as the Bojuka Bay's bastion, and the Hagra Complex or the mtropolis of Malakir in Guul Draz, either built by previous unknown civilizations or approximately one millennium ago by the vampires (in the case of Malakir).
Kabira is also famous for being a crossroads, and a very particular one as well, because since the whole city rotates along with the circular earth-plate it's built on, the roads it becomes a crossroad to variate in time. There are basically two seasons: in one, Kabira links the roads that go from the Ondu mainland to the Crypt of Agadeem complex, and in the other, the combination of the Crypt's rotation with Kabira's make this link very difficult, and the road opens instead towards the extensive Hedron Fields.

Protection and Environmental Safety

Kabira, as most places in the large island of Agadeem in Ondu, enjoys a fairly stable Roil, that concentrates itself in usually non-lethal but extremely large-scale earth movements, mostly of rotatory nature. Large and usually circular plates of Agadeem's terrain rotate around their centre, just minimally detached from their rocky basement, and then occasionally fall in place, triggering small-to-medium magnitude earthquakes, that usually don't make any victims or serious structural damage in Kabira, which also has built-in magical wards designed to protect the city from these effects.
Other effects include incredibly tall spikes of terrain protruding from small areas located usually in the joint-regions of three circular plates. These spikes coincide of course with regions of modified gravity, and would be potentially destructive should they appear in the middle of Kabira. But for now, since Kabira is built in the middle of a large circular plate, it is considered safe from these effects, at least since the circular plate lasts as it is.

Protection-wise, Kabira enjoys the militaristic presence of the Vindicator, and his numerous armies of zealots, and could probably be considered the place in Zendikar in which less crime happens, and monster incursions are less frequent and less effective. It could be said that the dangers in Kabira may come more from the very structures that defend it, than from external sources. Which is not encouraging, but is also not proved. For now.

As an Icon

Kabira, just as Sea Gate, is too complex a location for being considered as a single Icon by itself. The Vindicator is the Icon closest to represent the whole of Kabira, but he hasn't acquired full control of the Kabira Conservatory yet, which apart from being tied to the Lighthouse Accademy in Sea Gate, is also run by Viniva, a merfolk that being an important cleric of the Church of Ondu as well as a mage-researcher, is not easily set aside from its seat of power.
This huge bay is filled with a maze of the multi-trunked harabaz trees. These massive plants grip the seabed in their entwined roots, joining to form one titanic organism. The harabaz trees grow blade-shaped prows on their seaward sides that enable them to cut the giant waves that smash toward land during the worst of the tides, and after the rising of krakens or the great sea monster Lorthos. Ships attempting to make passage through the Harabaz Forest must remain vigilant against submerged harabaz and maintain tight control of their vessels lest they be smashed against a blade-prow. Making passage during the changing of the tides, a storm, or a manifestation of the unpredictable Roil spells sure doom.
Fortunately, elves of the Tajuru tribe and assisting merfolk have set up a network of flags and beacons to mark the safest route. Sometimes the elves are able to spot sundered ships and reach them in time to save a few crew, but no Tajuru risks travel through the harabaz forest at night or when the water is rough.


Art not from Wizards of The Coast - "Dinosaur Forest", by Fish032
One of the few passages into the small (by Zendikar standards) "walled continent" of Murasa, Sunder Bay merges the worst aspects of a wave and tide-battered coast and a titanic, roil-infused forest.
It's as if Zendikar itself went an extra mile in the effort of discouraging people from entering Murasa, by making the only open bay that grants access to the continent one of the most deadly places to navigate on the planet.
Still, as many dangerous places in Zendikar, Sunder Bay and its Harabaz forest are mildly populated, and their wilds "maintained" by the Tajuru elves and their merfolk allies. But the most important individual of Sunder Bay doesn't belong to them: it's Lorthos, the Tidemaker, an octopoid monster of gargantuan proportions.

Icons and Organizations

The Tidemaker is the de-facto Icon of Sunder Bay, and although nearly nobody managed to have a positive relationship with it, the fact that the Speaker of the Tajuru, Sutina, evidently managed so is a proof that it's possible.
There are no actual organizations in these wild lands, unless one considers the Tajuru to be a large-scale organization, something not far from the truth anyway. In this case, Speaker Sutina is surely the Icon corresponding to it.
She lives in the Tumbled Palace, a building of ancient origin, possibly built by the same unknown civilization that built the Sea Gate in Tazeem and the bastion hidden in Bojuka Bay in Bala Ged. The building which once evidntly had its foundations built on solid ground is now sitting on the twisted trunk of one of the many giant Jurworrel trees of Sunder Bay, directly above the sea. Its inclination and position shift with the tree's frequent roil-powered movements, so many Tajuru pray that it won't be actually tossed inside the sea, with their Speaker inside. She seems to be rather fatalistic about it, and seldom leaves the palace, some say because it amplifies in some way her power over dangerous beasts in the region, including dragons and possibly even Lorthos himself.



Structure and Appearance

The few structures here are rope-made bridges and passages made by the Tajuru, and a few tree-mounted seawatching-outposts and fisher houses. Since the Roil in Sunder Bay concentrates under water or at water-level, these strcutures actually endure most of the dangers of the location, save for the random particularly enraged (and hungry) kraken.
The appearance of Sunder Bay is actually awe-inspiring, resembling a bit the great Vastwood of Tazeem, but without any limestone framework: the macro-organism here is all made of Harabaz trees, trunk upon trunk upon trunk, and another difference is that the whole forest doesn't have the tiniest bit of land beneath not covered in waters, although some places are so shallow that they could be navigated by riding a large land beast. No place remains the same for long though, in terms of water depth, in Sunder Bay. The irregular tides are unpredictable, or nearly so. And everybody says it's because of Lorthos, not the usual Roil.


Protection and Environmental Safety

There is nothing requiring protection in Sunder Bay, no true village. Only isolated and mostly temporary residences, which never store anything of value inside. And the population is all made of individuals capable of defending themselves from any attack, or better yet escape successfully.
On a similar level, it makes no sense to speak of environmental safety in Sunder Bay: it's a place that defines environmental un-safety!

As an Icon

The location is too sparsely populated to be considered an Icon, but Lorthos the Tidemaker, and Speaker Sutina of the Tajuru are minor Icons for sure, controlling the very environment, and thus often having the last word on who can pass through Sunder Bay, and who can't even survive to it.
Not only that, Lorthos is said to know a lot about the Roil and even the Eldrazi, being an incredibly old if not immortal being, and Speaker Sutina is basically the only humanoid "interface" to the monster, other than representing the largest elven nation on Zendikar, more directly than even the Treespeaker could ever do.
Another figure that is (or was) connected with the Harabaz Forest, and by association with Sunder Bay, is Piqua, the leader of the Tazeem Expeditionary House. She is a druid other than a roguish explorer, and she is said to have discovered a lot of the secrets of the forest and its particular mana and Roil, back in her adventuring days. She says she can't just share the knowledge because it's more of a personal link, but that for a good cause (and probably a good pay), she could return to the place and offer her help directly on the field.


























Much of the interior of Tazeem is an ever-expanding reef-rock forest. The formations of brittle rock are similar to a coral reef: branching plateaus, spiny towers, bristly fringes, and stratified layers with deep crevices and sun wells. This reef-rock forms in pale yellows, greens, and blues. The reef-rock is porous and pockmarked, and water drips through these crevices and holes. The rock itself is infused with magical properties and is continually expanding and growing, like a coral reef, although the rock itself isn't alive. These reef-rocks can grow up to 100 feet tall and merge with surrounding reefs to form stratified plateaus that are hundreds of miles wide and tall.

Giant trees and other vegetation grows on this reef-rock—on top of the plateaus, surrounding the spiny formations, deep in the sun wells—wherever it can get even a small amount of light and water. The plants send out a mat of roots and engulf the rock so that in many places the rock isn't visible through the undergrowth. The forest takes the shape of the rock below it, making bizarre shapes and silhouettes. Because of the scarcity of direct sunlight, the vegetation grows explosively fast whenever sunlight does manage to reach it. Known as Em's Blessing, this explosive growth is both beautiful and dangerous. Animals and explorers can become caught and suffocated in the growth.


The Oran Rief, also known as Vastwood, is the main ecosystem of Tazeem. Although this is very far from saying Tazeem only has one environment, because the Oran Rief is, by definition, multiple environments in one. Its ever-shifting and growing nature makes the forest different depending on the "layer" of the reef it grown on, and while the bottom lands are swampy, the upper layers go through all kinds of possible forests, up to a nearly dry grassland on the topmost plateaus, which actually lie at mountain-high altitudes.

Icons and Organizations

The Vastwood is populated only by small Tajuru elf clans, nomadic Kor, Merfolk on expeditions, or the occasional banished vampire, in the darkest bottom areas. There are many small settlements, but since they move along with the whole shifting structure of the Oran Reef, they are not mapped, and as such do not count much commercially or economically.
The Treespeaker is the only Icon having some influence, but even hers is limited, mainly due to the scarce and loose population. The Halimar Expeditionary leader, Zahr Gada, is the only other figure with some kind of relevance, not much in the Oran Rief, but about the Oran Rief: he could be a true mine of information, and although he doesn't personally escort adventurers from his now nearly permanent residence in Sea Gate, his friend Yon Basrel, better known as "the Oran Rief survivalist" is usually up for the task, as he lives more out in the Vastwood than in any civilized place (Sea Gate least of all).
All in all, the Vastwood is a land dominated by monstrous baloths, landmark-sized elementals, landmark-eating wurms, and dangerous animals of all kinds. As such, organizations, Icons, and civilization in general has a very secondary role in the Vastwood.

Structure and Appearance

Besides the already well-documented structure and appearance of the forest itself, speaking of the few permanent buildings, there are no rules at all. Actually, the most permanent buildings are those that are grown instead of built: inside the oldest trees, the Tajuru build their homes, and keep them safe, at least until some climbing genus of baloth doesn't sniff out the easy meal opportunity. At that point, they usually manage to abandon the trunk before it becomes one thing with a baloth's throat. There are many beautifully furnished empty trees, abandoned around in the forest, and basically any trunk or multi-trunk (a trunk made of many trunks interlocked together) could host a surprisingly comfortable abode, although hardly safe from being a hunting ground once it gets inhabited for more than a few hours.
Semi-permanent zip-lines abound where the Tajuru can maintain them, just as in Sunder Bay, but since the forest here actually moves and in different directions, it's not only a problem of maintenance: sometimes the trees holding the lines simply move too far apart.
Unlike the ones near the Sky Ruin, the floating islands that dot the Vastwood (which is clearly characterized by many gravitational anomalies), are rather stable, and a few communities have been established there, especially by Kor and Merfolk. However, the strange organic limestone constituting the reef is not good construction material, so there have been no attempts at building with stone on the floating islands, which host just a few wooden buildings at best.

Protection and Environmental Safety

Having nearly no organized permanent population, there are no protection forces in the Oran Rief, besides the Sea Gate Militia in the region around the city (which is dense forest, by the way).
Speaking of safety is also pointless in such a wild and Roil-infused region. Although the movements of the land are quite slow for Zendikar standards, the vegetation could swallow anything at any time even just for a shift in the upper layers allowing some more precious sunlight in.
However, compared to the Guum Wilds near Bojuka Bay, the Harabaz Forest in Sunder Bay, or places like the Hanging Swamps of Guul Draz, the Oran Rief is relatively safe, and dangers and beasts are often so large that you can see them coming from miles away, giving the expert adventurer enough time to save his or her skin in some way.

As an Icon

There is nobody in the Oran Rief that could act as an Icon. However, there is talk of the Roil being particularly "sentient" here, favoring some individuals and hindering others. As such, the Oran Rief itself could be considered a "geographical icon", although the quality and type of relationship with it would have to be randomly determined...