Not all is what it seems in the region of Khitai. The lush vegetation of the Northern Grasslands is rivaled by the hostile desert plains of Kara Korum, where magic and untold horrors rule. Players who find themselves in this province will not only have to fight off monsters, they have to battle with the land itself.
“Something wicked lives in the desert, something twists everything and everyone. Legend says that the black crater is like a scab, bleeding its puss into the world, poisoning it. Have you seen the people that live there, pale as ghosts with broken bodies? Have you seen the trees big as mountains? Have you seen the children hunting for human flesh? Nature itself has become perverted. There is an evil out there that is better left alone.” Kara Korum fisherman
A place of dread, a place of wonder, a place to die
Climb the trees as big as mountains. Listen to the deafening silence of the statues of black glass, frozen in their mute screams, outside of the Obsidian Temple. Visit the villages where madness can be passed like a sickness. The balance has been broken, corrupted by the crater which pulses at the heart of the region. Most of the playfield is rocky ground, cliffs and mountains.
The Crater is a wound, and it leaks corruption like a scabbed river of puss that permeates the land, perverts all laws of nature, and turns men into monsters and sanity to madness. Twenty-five years ago, it released a tide of fiends like the cloacae of a demon. Yah-chieng’s first act as God-Emperor was to dig something up from the Crater, something secret, something he took back to Paikang. It lies in the northeast corner of Kara Korum, and yet the Crater is the fulcrum, the center to all mystery: the recent surge of magic, Yag-kosha, the Corrupted, the Mandate, the Emperor’s dark secret.
Between the two shores of the Yellow River delta, on the edge of the Kara Korum desert, lays a village built on naked rock. Populated by fishermen, traders and looters, the source of their riches mainly comes from looting dead adventurers that strayed into the relentless desert. It is a simple village; their resourcefulness revealed only by their work at the Obsidian Temple. Fighting the decaying Corrupted of the desert; they refuse to see how they are slowly turning into what they fight.
The Eternal Pyre
“In the village of Fengdu, whenever we kill a Corrupted, we throw the body on the pyre. I don’t know how many Corrupted. The fire burns night and day. They smell like sulfur, bile, and popping maggots. You can kill the Corrupted, but you can never escape them. The smoke and stink and floating ashes get in your clothes, in your hair, under your fingernails, in your food, in your lungs. Day and night, you can feel them, smell them, taste them, even choke on them! You make yourself vomit, but they’re still there.” Fengdu villager
Lighting up the village day and night is a fire, fuelled by the bodies of the Corrupted. Here are men and women that cherish life so much that they want it to be eternal, yet they kill so much. Any Corrupted that moves too close to the village will be hunted and killed, and fed to the fire. And there are plenty of Corrupted.
The Village used to be a trading hub – but since the Corrupted started to spread, it has changed into something far more sinister. In the slightly twisted minds of the villagers, it is still a place of worship – burning the Lifeless has become a ritual of their beliefs.
Valley of Giants
From the crater runs a river of a tainted fluid, like pus coming out of a picked scab. A stream runs from the river into the Valley of Giants, into a small lake there. Once it was an oasis of fresh water, but now it is tainted as well. The oasis still has trees and some wildlife, but it has changed. It has grown. In vegetation it is known as gigantism, but in this valley it has taken off and become truly bizarre and frightening, yet wondrous. Trees big as mountains, beasts so enormous they would have give Conan pause.
Trees, bushes and other forms of vegetation that are found in this environment are enormous – many times bigger than normal. There is also something unnerving about them. That branch, doesn’t it look like a human arm reaching out from the trunk? Doesn’t that stump have the features of a grinning mouth?
The beasts are enormous too. Meeting one instills a sense of dread, battling one is a furious contest where the prize is your life. The valley also inspires a sense of wonder, through amazing and weird trees, through fantastic creatures and through the contrast of harsh desert meeting beautiful oasis.
The veterans tell tales of the Frenzy, but not before a shiver and a gulp of strong drink. Twenty-five years ago, the Black Crater vomited an ocean of horrors – creatures from the elder night, beings of grotesque symmetry, monsters that cannot be described by the storyteller, for the mortal mind, mercifully, has limits.
The Imperial Army was no match for the beasts, but the power of sorcery turned the tide. The scholars and mages found themselves empowered by the Mandate. There, on the river, the final battle was fought. The Khitan infantry made a brave stand, their sorcerous allies hurling fire and lightning into the ranks of the demons. In the end, they scattered the monsters.
But to this day…wicked things still crawl from the black sands of Kara Korum.