Some Quick Links

Featured

If you want to go to the very first post on the Atlas of Ice and Fire, click here.

Some other useful links:

Malazan Book of the Fallen Atlas.

Wheel of Time Atlas.

Forgotten Realms Atlas.

How big is the world anyway?

The Size and Extent of Westeros (revised) and The Size and Extent of Essos, Sothoryos and Ulthos (revised).

A Political Map of the Known World.

Terra Incognita: Beyond the Known World.

The Population of the Seven Kingdoms and The Population of the Free Cities.

Unreliable Timelines and Confused Dates.

A Song of Lines and Latitude.

Wonders Made by Man and The Seven Natural Wonders of the Known World.

Historical Map 1: The Dawn of Days and other Historical Maps.

Geographic Map 1: The Known World and other Geographic Maps.

Stellar Cartography: A Babylon 5 Jump Route Map

In the process of creating my recent Babylon 5 starmap, using the location of real stars, I thought it might be interesting to create a larger map showing all of the major powers and their colonies, and the jump routes connecting them.

Please click for a much larger version.

This map is based on the map provided in the Babylon 5 Roleplaying Game from Mongoose Publishing (2002), which in turn was partially inspired by the starmaps in the earlier Babylon Project Roleplaying Game from Titan Books (1997) and Babylon 5 Wars miniatures game from Agents of Gaming (1997), with some modifications. All of these games ran their maps and other information past J. Michael Straczynski and his assistant Fiona Avery for approval. Whilst official, licensed products, however, they are not necessarily canon (Straczynski later fell out with Mongoose Publishing and declared the information in their game to be non-canon, even apparently information that he’d authorised). However, they are the best maps we have or are likely to get.

The map depicts the state of known space at the start of the year 2257, at the time that Ambassador Kosh of the Vorlon Empire arrives on board the Babylon 5 diplomatic station. There are five major powers whose military, political and economic clout is enough to classify them as superpowers: the Vorlon Empire, the Minbari Federation, the Centauri Republic, the Earth Alliance and the Narn Regime (in rough order of age and power). Some of these powers exercise control over other races as overlords, such as the Centauri, or the Minbari over several neighbouring worlds which are part of their “protectorate,” most notably the Norsai.

In addition there are a large number of minor powers who have banded together as the League of Non-aligned Worlds. These include the Abbai, Balosians, Brakiri, Cascor, Drazi, Gaim, Grome, Hurr, Hyach, Ipsha (or Iksha), Llort, Markab, Onteen, Pak’ma’ra, Vree and Yolu, whose combined power is considerable but undercut by internal divisions. There are yet more minor powers who prefer to maintain their own independence, such as the Lumati, Golians, Sh’lassans, Onteen and Ch’lonas.

This map depicts the major empires based on hyperspace transit routes, not their physical relationships in realspace. The Earth Alliance incorporates systems that are physically close to one another – such as Proxima Centauri, which is only 4.2 light-years from Earth – but also ones that are extremely distant, such as Deneb, located 2,616 light-years from Earth. However, quirks of hyperspace currents and gravitational inclines allow relatively rapid transit to those systems. Similarly, worlds like Centauri Prime and Narn are a fairly convoluted series of jumps from Earth, despite physically being relatively close by (Narn is about 19.7 light-years from Earth, Centauri Prime around 58 light-years away), whilst the mysterious Alpha Omega system is more like 25,000 light-years away, on the Galactic Rim, but can be reached relatively easily (if anyone had any reason to travel out there).

Jump routes are shown in three varieties. Thick lines are major routes, catered for by multiple, redundant jump beacons and in some cases multiple jump gates. Thinner lines are normal routes, catered for by a single beacon and gate. Broken lines are restricted routes, where one or both of the gates has been switched to only allowing authorised ships to pass. The reasons for these restrictions vary, but may be down to planetary security, quarantine (dangerous wildlife is the reason the Centauri world of Na’ka’leen is quarantined), military restrictions or dangerous space phenomena (the reason the Narn have restricted access to Sigma 957).

“Jump routes” refer to the jump beacon network in hyperspace. Every jump gate has a beacon (located in realspace, to avoid drifting in hyperspace) which emits a powerful tachyon signal that can cut through the interference of hyperspace. Beacons can pair with one another, creating lifelines through hyperspace which non-FTL-capable ships can follow to destination gates. FTL-capable ships, vessels with their own jump drives, are also reliant on the beacon network to reach their destination but can choose their own exit point from hyperspace. Ships with more advanced and sensitive signal receivers might be able to take “shortcuts” in hyperspace, bypassing the beacon network altogether because they can detect the beacons of other gates at longer ranges, or even are confident enough to head out on a certain heading, losing contact with one beacon before picking up the signal of another, but this is an extremely hazardous tactic, risking being swept off the beacon network altogether and being marooned in hyperspace forever.

Ships which expand the jump network – such as the Earth Alliance’s immense Explorer-class starships – do so by ranging out from a beacon and attempting to target other stars through trial and error, jumping out and dropping a new beacon if they find something interesting, even building new jump gates altogether if the system is worth it. This is slow and tedious work even for more advanced races, but ensures that the jump network continues to expand continuously across the galaxy, if at times agonisingly slowly. The lack of stellar reference points prohibit the use of hyperspace for intergalactic travel; the distances involved are well beyond the range of modern beacon technology.

Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content before it goes live on my blogs.

Stellar Cartography: A Babylon 5 Starmap

Here’s a quick project I’ve been meaning to look at for a while: a Babylon 5 starmap. This map only shows a few systems and their relative positions in real space (not hyperspace, which is a very different thing). Babylon 5 is one of the few SFF franchises – certainly one of the few TV shows – which actually uses real stars as the basis for locations.

Please click for a larger version.

The map is partially based on the fine Stellar Geography article about Babylon 5, where the writer lays out persuasive arguments for the locations of both the Narn and Centauri homeworld based on in-text distances and directions. Unfortunately, insufficient data exists to map the locations of the Minbari and Vorlon homeworlds, and other locations of note.

This map shows Sol, the location of Earth and the heart of the Earth Alliance, and the neighbouring powers of the Narn Regime and the Centauri Republic. Epsilon Eridani, the neutral star system where diplomatic station Babylon 5 is located, is shown, along with the Earth Alliance’s major colonies at Proxima III and Vega VII. These are real-world stars whose distances are known. The location of the Narn homeworld can be inferred from the show (in the episode By Any Means Necessary): we are told that Narn is located 12.2 human light-years (10.0 Narn light-years) from Babylon 5. The only star located at this distance from Epsilon Eridani likely to have habitable planets (actually closer to 12.4 light-years, but that seems a negligible difference) is 82 Eridani.

The location of Centauri Prime is harder to discern, as the only clue we are given is that Centauri Prime is 75 Centauri light-years from Babylon 5 (in The War Prayer). However, the star Iota Centauri is located a pleasing 65.3 human light-years from Babylon 5 (approx 58 light-years from Earth), with a reasonable possibility of hosting planets, and located in a direction that would allow the Centauri to encounter the Narn before they encountered humanity.

Unfortunately we lack any significant clues to be able to identify the stars that are home to the Minbari, Vorlons or other species. One world that does appear is called Markab, and there is a real star called Markab (located 133.35 light-years from Sol and 130 light-years from Babylon 5), but according to J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5‘s main writer, who penned 91 of the show’s 110 episodes), he was unaware of this and the star is not meant to be the location of the Markab homeworld.

In the Babylon 5 universe, interstellar travel is conducted via hyperspace. Hyperspace is a parallel (but featureless) universe that exists alongside our own and intersects with it at every point, but is much smaller. Because of this, ships can enter hyperspace, travel several thousand or million kilometres and exit hyperspace several light-years away from their prior location. However, hyperspace features strange gravitational eddies, inclines and currents that prevent simple linear travel. Ships might have to fly “against” the current to get to a target destination, and in some areas hyperspace travel might become impossible, necessitating a return to real space and travelling across open space to get to another jump gate located “beyond” the obstruction in hyperspace. In other areas there may by hyperfast currents and eddies that can dramatically speed ships to remote regions in hyperspace, allowing them to re-enter real space thousands or even tens of thousands of light-years from their prior location in just a few days, whilst it might take weeks to travel a hundred light-years under normal conditions.

In terms of plot, of course, the vagaries of hyperspace travel allow the writers to be vague about travel times and have ships travelling at the “speed of plot.” That said, J. Michael Straczynski was reasonably consistent about travel times. It is a two-day jump from Earth to Babylon 5 (10.5 light-years) and a three-day jump from Babylon 5 to Centauri Prime, despite Centauri Prime being considerably further away (~58 light-years based on the map calculations). It is also a two-day jump from Babylon 5 to Z’ha’dum on the galactic rim, a distance approximating 25,000 light-years (assuming Z’ha’dum is on the rim closest to Earth, otherwise possibly considerably further; 75,000 light-years if it is located on the opposite side of the galaxy).

For these reasons, a literal distance map between stars is somewhat pointless, since stars relatively close in realspace might entail a long trip in hyperspace, whilst stars located thousands of light-years apart might be a very quick trip in hyperspace. As a result, various fan and quasi-canon Babylon 5 maps in licensed material show maps in terms of jump nodes rather than literal distances.

Still, this was a fun little map to put together, using Celestia to establish the relative stellar relationships.

Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content before it goes live on my blogs.

A Map of Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry

After a bit of a break, I’m easing back into the mapping game with this quick map based on Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry, a high fantasy trilogy published in the 1980s.

Please click for a larger version.

The trilogy consists of the novels The Summer Tree (1984), The Wandering Fire (1986) and The Darkest Road (1986) and was Kay’s debut solo work. His previous work in the fantasy field had been assisting Christopher Tolkien in editing The Silmarillion for publication in 1977, so Kay came into the field with rather more impressive credentials than most fantasy authors.

The Fionavar Tapestry sees several Canadian students summoned to the magical world of Fionavar, where the kingdoms are under threat from a dark lord, Rakoth Maugrim. The students find themselves taken on new guises and powers in this world, even re-enacting ideals from other mythologies (one of the students finds herself fulfilling the role of Guinevere in a revamp of the Arthurian legend) before the final great battle is fought.

Kay’s later work has been much more rooted in real history, with an arguably declining level of magic in his later novels. He’s also, remarkably, never written a trilogy again, with the closest being his Sarantine Mosaic duology. Fionavar did get a sequel of sorts, however, with Ysabel (2007), a fantasy novel set in our world which is mostly self-contained, but does feature several characters from the earlier trilogy.

Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content before it goes live on my blogs.

A Distance Map of Westeros

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A while ago, I received a request for an interesting idea: isochronic maps of fantasy worlds.

A distance map of Westeros. Please click for a larger version.

Isochronic maps show time over distance, and are very useful if the specific distance is less useful than knowing how quickly you can get somewhere. The scale might tell you that a location is 300 miles away in a straight line, but an isochronic map can tell you how long it will take to travel that distance given various factors (time of year, weather conditions, mounted or on foot, on good roads or across country, terrain etc).

I started looking at doing an isochronic map of Westeros but ran into problems that sorting through the morass of geographical factors would take a considerable amount of time, requiring a huge number of judgement calls on how good quality the Kingsroad is versus the Ocean Road, how impassable the Mountains of the Moon are in autumn and so on. For the time being I switched to doing a much more simple distance map which does not take account of geographical obstacles at this stage. The distance map is centred on King’s Landing, the capital city of the Seven Kingdoms.

The distance map is based on the idea of someone being able to travel 25 miles in one day. This would typically be someone travelling on horseback with moderate baggage and able to swap horses maybe once a week or fortnight (otherwise you could assume 2 days of rest for every 5-7 days travelled and extend the days required to travel accordingly). The journeys would be slightly faster on an excellent highway like the Kingsroad, and a lot slower in bad weather.

A full isochronic map would take account of such features. Historically they were more useful for ocean travel, given the more dependable regularity of ship speeds as technology improved, but land-based ones exist as well.

An isochronic map of the world in 1914, centred on London.

A fully accurate isochronic map is impossible, due to the number of variables being very high (pleasingly, for an author who hasn’t necessarily put this amount of thought into things), but it’s something to definitely consider for a future entry.

Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content before it goes live on my blogs.

An updated map of THE DRAGON PRINCE

Following on from my previous map of Xadia and the Five Kingdoms (from the Netflix animated series, The Dragon Prince), I’ve now prepared an updated version which takes into account new information from the book, The Art of the Dragon Prince.

Dragon Prince Updated Map

A map of the Dragon Prince world. Please click for a larger version.

This book includes a brand-new, more detailed map of the continent shared by the Five Kingdoms and Xadia, presumably with locations that will play a larger role in forthcoming seasons (Netflix recently renewed the show for four more seasons to complete the saga), as well as the capitals of the other human kingdoms (apart from Evenere).

Season 4 of The Dragon Prince is expected to air on Netflix in 2021, and I suspect we’ll have a bunch more new locations to explore at that point.

A Revised Map of the First Law

I previously posted a map of Joe Abercrombie’s Circle of the World – the setting for his First Law books – a couple of years back. I decided to revisit it ahead of the publication of the next book in the setting, The Trouble with Peace, next month.

First Law Map Colour

A map of the Circle of the World. Please click for a larger version.

This isn’t a major revamp, being the previous map colourised. A more thorough reworking of the map is possible in the future (incorporating the expanded maps of Styria and the Far Country from Best Served Cold and Red Country, for example), but that’s a way off at the moment.

Joe Abercrombie’s First Law world is divided into three continents and numerous large islands.

The North is a land of frozen rivers, towering mountains and ferocious creatures called Shanka. The Northmen are hardy warriors, living in a land of war, raiding and a rough kind of honour.

The western continent is land of prairies and plains, reminiscent of the American West. This continent is the location of the Far Country, where rumours of riches and gold have drawn settlers, and the Old Empire, a formerly great nation that has collapsed into civil war.

The southern continent, Kanta, is a vast land of deserts and arid plains with civilisation clustered around the great rivers. Kanta is the home of the massive Gurkish Empire, the largest and most populous nation in the Circle of the World.

Located between these continents are several islands, the most notable of which are Midderland, Styria, Suljuk and Thond. Midderland is the homeland of the Union, a large empire which includes possessions on all three continental landmasses: Angland in the North, Dagoska in Kanta and Starikland on the western continent. Adua, the capital of the Union, is located in Midderland. Styria is a collection of feuding city-states, the most powerful of which is Talins.

 

Note on the Map

This map is based closely on the map created by Dave Senior for Sharp Ends, the 2016 Joe Abercrombie collection of short stories set in the same world. I have added some additional locations and included a scale (based on the discussion of the distance from Aostum to Darmium given in the text).

 

The Circle of the World is the setting for the following novels:

The First Law Trilogy

  1. The Blade Itself (2006)
  2. Before They Are Hanged (2007)
  3. Last Argument of Kings (2008)

Semi-Stand-Alone Books

  • Best Served Cold (2009)
  • The Heroes (2011)
  • Red Country (2012)
  • Sharp Ends: Stories from the World of the First Law (2016)

The Age of Madness Trilogy

  1. A Little Hatred (2019)
  2. The Trouble with Peace (2020)
  3. The Beautiful Machine (2021)

Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content weeks before it goes live on my blogs.

Stellar Cartography: The Maps of Freespace

This is a series of maps based on the Freespace video game franchise. This series consists of three space combat games widely regarded as the best in their genre: Conflict Freespace: The Great War (1998), Conflict Freespace: The Silent Threat (1998) and Freespace 2 (1999).

FS2 Nodemap 2335

A map depicting known space shortly before the events of Conflict Freespace: The Great War. Please click for a larger version.

A Brief History of the Freespace Universe

Early History

More then ten thousand years ago, a powerful alien race, known colloquially if lazily as “the Ancients,” arose in our region of the galaxy and established a large, powerful empire spanning many systems, utilising the power of subspace to jump between distant stars. This empire flourished for several millennia before it encountered an extremely powerful, tenacious and relentless foe, the “Destroyers.” The Destroyers pushed the Ancients back to their home star system and eradicated them approximately eight thousand years ago.

Peace fell on this corner of the galaxy for a long period of time until two species in relatively neighbouring parts of the galaxy (at least neighbouring via the subspace node network, if not in physical space) reached the stars almost simultaneously: the Vasudans, based on Vasuda Prime, and the Terrans, based on Earth in the Sol system. The two species colonised multiple systems before running headlong into one another. First contact took place early in the 24th Century and it appears that this may have been relatively peaceful. However, the flames of xenophobia were fanned in both civilisations, propelled by a joint fear that each other race was going to seize resources urgently desired by the other. When a Terran diplomatic party made a minor mistake during a ritual Vasudan greeting in 2321, extremists seized on it as an excuse for war.

The war, fought between the Vasudan Parliamentary Empire (PVE) and the Galactic Terran Alliance (GTA), raged for fourteen years. At several key moments it appeared that one power gained the upper hand over the other, only for their advantage to be checked. The conflict was expensive and wasteful, and peace initiatives several times came close to ending the war, but each time old fears and hatreds were reignited and the conflict gained new momentum. Still, after fourteen years it became clear that both races had lost the appetite for a prolonged battle to the death.

FS2 Nodemap The Great War

A map depicting the Great War of AD 2335. Please click for a larger version.

The Great War

In 2335, both species were taken by surprise by the arrival of an unknown alien race. Flying distinctive black ships and using energy shields (a technology unknown to either the Vasudans or Terrans), this race gained the name “Shivans.” The Shivans relentlessly attacked both Terran and Vasudan worlds and ships, devastating GTA holdings in the Ross 128 system and mounting a systematic assault through the Ribos sector. Faced with a mutual foe desiring nothing less than the annihilation of all other sentient life, the Terrans and Vasudans called a ceasefire, formed an ad hoc alliance and established a common front against the invading Shivans, drawing a line between Vega, Antares and Ribos.

Unfortunately, the Shivans deployed a superior flagship vessel, codenamed Lucifer. Equipped with a shield which regenerated almost instantly to any attack, the vessel appeared unbeatable. It jumped past the allied blockade to strike at Deneb. After massacring all forces in its path, it jumped into orbit around Vasuda Prime and bombarded the planet from orbit for half a day, killing more than four billion Vasudans.

As the war grew more desperate, Vasudan scientists reluctantly confirmed the existence of alien ruins on Altair IV that long predated their own civilisation. Examination of records from these ruins suggested that the Shivans were the “Great Destroyers” who had obliterated the Ancient civilisation. The Ancient records suggested that although Shivan shield technology was superior, it possessed a significant weakness: it could not function in subspace. The Terran and Vasudan forces augmented their best fighter and bomber wings with intersystem subspace drives and tracked the Lucifer from Vasuda to Delta Serpenis. From there, the Lucifer made the jump to Sol. The fighter and bomber wings pursued the Lucifer into subspace and confirmed that the shields on the Lucifer were no longer operating. They were able to hit the Lucifer’s reactor core with heavy torpedoes and crippled the ship; when it emerged from subspace, it exploded with such force that it created a subspace feedback loop that enveloped the entire Sol system. Although the system was unharmed, it did collapse every jump node leading to Sol, effectively cutting it off from the rest of the galaxy.

FS2 Nodemap After the Great War

A map showing the explored galaxy after the Great War, but before the Beta Aquilae Convention.

Aftermath

The aftermath of the Great War was a chaotic time. The Vasudan Empire relocated its capital to Aldebaran and began a rebuilding process, whilst the GTA established a new base of operations in Delta Serpentis and attempted to find a way of reopening the jump node to Sol. All of these efforts proved futile. Several months after the war, the GTA’s intelligence and special operations division attempted to launch a coup against the GTA government and reignite the war against the Vasudans using an experimental warship, the Hades. This rebellion was halted in its tracks and the Hades was destroyed.

The GTA fragmented over the following few years, with regional governments including the Regulus Syndicate, the Adhara Coalition, the Antares Federation and the Luyten New Alliance forming. However, in 2345 the Vasudan Emperor proposed unifying Terran and Vasudan military holdings into a single alliance with the intent of propelling technological development forward so that they would be much better prepared should the Shivans return. After considerable dissent, argument and negotiation, this resulted in the signing in 2358 of the Beta Aquilae Convention (BETAC), which dissolved the regional governments and formally established the Galactic Terran-Vasudan Alliance (GTVA).

By this time, attempts to contact Earth by sublight communications from systems close to Sol in physical space (most notably Alpha Centauri, Wolf 359 and Sirius) had also curiously failed, resulting in growing concerns about the fate of the home system.

In 2365 the GTVA was suddenly rocked by the unexpected outbreak of civil war. Although the new alliance had restored political peace and economic security to all Terran and Vasudan worlds, some Terrans and Vasudans bristled at the integration of their two species into one union. The Vasudan rebels, known as the Hammer of the Light, had largely been defeated after the Great War, but underlying tensions in the Terran systems reached boiling point. Admiral Bosch of the GTVA military staged a coup in Polaris and announced the founding of the Neo-Terran Front, a human-first organisation which called for the dissolution of BETAC and the imposition of a hardline, fascistic form of governance (including summary execution for officers who failed to achieve military objectives). The NTF failed to recognised the BETAC’s rules on war crimes, particularly not recognising the execution of Vasudan military officers or civilians as a crime at all. Shockingly, the rebellion spread and both Regulus and Sirius declared for the NTF within weeks.

The GTVA and the NTF clashed for control of their three home systems, but the NTF had caused a substantial minority of the GTVA fleet to defect. The GTVA was on the back foot in the opening months of the war as the NTF fortified their three home systems and then went on the offensive in Epsilon Pegasi, Deneb and Alpha Centauri. The GTVA barely held them back, but was then able to launch a successful counter-offensive. Eighteen months into the war, with the GTVA political council on the brink of suing for peace, the GTVA military unleashed its most secret project: the GTVA Colossus, a ship considerably larger and more powerful even than the Lucifer. The Colossus tore a swathe through the NTF fleet, shrugging off even an attempted kamikaze ram from an Orion-class destroyer with only minimal damage.

FS2 Nodemap NTF Rebellion

A map depicting the civil war with the Neo-Terran Front in 2365-66. Please click for a larger version.

During this conflict, it was determined that the NTF had seized technology related to the Ancients and had been using it for unknown purposes. One of the NTF experiments activated an Ancient device of tremendous power in the Gamma Draconis system, a system believed to have been deserted after initial surveys turned up nothing of interest. GTVA investigations revealed that the device was a subspace portal, capable of stabilising jump nodes too unstable for regular use. The Gamma Draconis portal, known as the Knossos, appeared to lead to Shivan space, as Shivan forces began pouring through Gamma Draconis into the Capella system. The GTVA fleet at Capella annihilated the Shivan force and then drove them back to the Knossos portal. The GTVA seized control of the portal and debated on destroying it to halt the possibility of any further Shivan invasion. However, the portal hinted at a way of reopening the jump nodes to Earth. This prospect was too tantalising to resist and it was decided to fortify the Knossos whilst securing the space on the far side. A precautionary evacuation of the 250 million inhabitants of Capella began, whilst the GTVA fleet redeployed to meet the possible challenges of fighting both the Shivans and NTF simultaneously. As it turned out, the latter was unnecessary; not only did the Colossus make short work of the NTF fleets, Admiral Bosch and his flagship, the Iceni, abandoned their worlds and fled through the Knossos, taking the GTVA fleets defending it by surprise.

The far side of the Knossos portal was revealed to be a dense nebula. With no stars visible through the thick clouds, it was impossible to determine the nebula’s location. However, the nebula was determined to be the site of a vast Shivan resource-gathering operation. The GTVA engaged Shivan forces throughout the nebula, destroying all of them with impressive ease thanks to their new weapons and technology, but were unable to locate the Iceni. They did locate the new Shivan flagship, the Sathanas, a warship rivalling the Colossus in size and exceeding it in firepower. With the Sathanas bearing down on the subspace the portal, the order was given to destroy the Knossos.

The attempt to destroy the portal appeared successful, but the Sathanas was able to jump into Gamma Draconis anyway: the portal had held the node open for long enough for it to become fully stabilised, even without the portal’s help. The GTVA scrambled its best bomber squadrons to knock out the Sathanas’ main weapons array. The Colossus was then able to destroy the Sathanas with its main guns, although only by almost overheating them into oblivion.

A GTVA taskforce returned to the nebula and discovered the Iceni, having somehow communicated with the Shivans. Admiral Bosch and his command crew were taken off the vessel by the Shivans, who then attempted to butcher the crew but were stopped by the GTVA taskforce. The Iceni was scuttled, but the experimental ETAK device Bosch used to communicate with the Shivans was recovered intact.

Further exploration of the nebula revealed the presence of a second Knossos portal, but attempts to secure it were defeated when a second Sathanas-class warship arrived, forcing the GTVA to once again evacuate the nebula. Before they left, a single scout party using captured Shivan fighters was sent through the second portal. They found themselves in a binary star system with a sky configuration that was not recognised by GTVA astronomers. A third Knossos portal was detected a vast distance away and no less than nine Sathanas-class warships were detected converging on the nebula portal, presenting a level of threat that even the Colossus could not deal with. Eventually the threat level became insurmountable when it was revealed that the full strength of the Shivan fleet topped out at eighty Sathanas-class vessels.

The GTVA concentrated almost its entire military force in Capella. The evacuation of Capella had now been proceeding for months, with the majority of its 250 million people pulled back (an exercise which had easily become the single most logistically challenging task in the history of both the Vasudan and human races). Aware they could not hope to defeat the Sathanas fleet, they instead focused on getting the last few civilian ships out of the system and using powerful meson bombs to destroy the jump nodes leading out of Capella to Vega and Epsilon Pegasi. The Epsilon Pegasi node was successfully collapsed.

The GTVA fleet began withdrawing to Vega, but the expected battle with the Sathanas fleet did not take place: instead, seventy-nine of the Sathanas-class ships surrounded the Capella star and began manipulating it with energy emissions of unknown origin. The remaining Sathanas broke off to engage and destroy the Colossus, which disobeyed orders to hold back the Shivans long enough for several civilian ships to escape.

After three days, just as the last Capellan refugees fled to Vega, the Shivan fleet triggered an energy pulse which destroyed the Capella star, making it go supernova. The resulting explosion destroyed the entire system and everything in it, and also collapsed the Vega node without the need for a meson bomb.

The destruction of Capella and its jump nodes effectively ended the Shivan threat from that quarter. The GTVA had survived what appeared to be an outright apocalypse, but the motivations for the Shivans to destroy Capella were unknown. It was theorised that the nebula system may have also been a star destroyed before its time by the Shivans, allowing the Shivans to harvest the gases and resources left behind. The truth of the matter remained unknown.

What was known was that the Shivan threat was far greater than could have been previously imagined. The GTVA began rearming and rebuilding, and also researching, for the data gleaned from the Knossos was enough for them to construct their own such devices and re-establish contact with the mysteriously silent Sol system. The threat of the Shivans remains overwhelming.

FS2 Nodemap Capella

A map showing the state of play after the second war with the Shivans and the Capella supernova. Please click for a larger version.

Subspace Nodes

To circumvent the speed of light limitation, all known spacefaring races used the subspace node network. This consists of tunnels or wormholes through subspace which link disparate systems together. Scientists are divided over whether nodes are naturally-occurring artifacts or are of artificial origin, or a mix. There is some evidence that it was the Ancients who created the current subspace node network, by using Knossos-class portals to stabilise natural but unstable nodes and then open them up to travel. The fact that the nodes tend to link together the brightest stars as seen from this sector of space or those most likely to harbour lifebearing planets does suggest an artificial origin.

The node network is not dependent on physical proximity in realspace. For example, Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to Sol at 4.4 light-years, but it is not the closest in subspace: Deneb (1,412 light-years distant), Beta Aquilae (44.7 light-years) and Delta Serpentis (228.1 light-years) are all a single subspace jump from Sol, whilst Alpha Centauri are is two jumps away (via Deneb). Wolf 359 is only 7.8 light-years distant from Sol but it is five jumps distant, via Delta Serpentis (228.1 light-years), Ross 128 (10.94 light-years), Laramis (unknown) and Luyten 726-8 (8.73 light-years) and so forth.

It is possible to collapse jump nodes with a large enough explosion. The shockwaves triggers the collapse of the node tunnel into a state only detectable at the quantum level; reopening the jump node can only be done with exotic matter and energy as generated via a Knossos-class subspace portal. Robust jump engines can also traverse nodes that other races cannot use: for example, the Shivans were able to use several unstable jump nodes to circumvent Vasudan and GTA lines of defence during the Great War. By the time of the second conflict, Vasudan and GTA technology had improved and the Shivans were unable to use this tactic as effectively.

The jump nodes from Sol to its connecting systems (Deneb, Beta Aquilae and Delta Serpentis) were severed during the Lucifer’s destruction at the conclusion of the Great War. The jump nodes linking Capella to Epsilon Pegasi and Vega (and presumably Gamma Draconis) were collapsed when the Shivans turned the Capellan star supernova at the conclusion of the Second Great War.

 

Note on the Maps

The links marked in blue are confirmed to exist via the game’s own accompanying maps or are canonically proven to exist by in-game events (most notably the Altair-Deneb jump node, which is not on the official maps but features in no less than three missions during the original game). Lines in orange are not shown on the maps but are referred to in dialogue.

 

Sources

The FreeSpace Wiki was an invaluable reference point in assembling this guide, particularly the high-res logos created by MjnMixael.

 

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A Map of Kara-Tur

Following on from my maps of Faerûn, Maztica and Zakhara, here is a new map of the continent of Kara-Tur in the Forgotten Realms fantasy setting.

Kara-Tur

A map of the continent of Kara-Tur. Please click for a (much) larger version.

Kara-Tur is part of the same landmass as Faerûn and Zakhara, but is considered a continent in its own right, separated from those two landmasses by the towering Yehimal mountain range. It is located due east of Faerûn, across the obviously-misnamed Endless Waste, and east and north-east of Zakhara, across the Segara Sea. Overland travel and trade between Faerûn and Kara-Tur is lengthy but frequent; trade with Zakhara is complicated by distance and geography.

Kara-Tur measures some 5,500 miles from the Land of the Snow Spirits – believed to be the local name for the Endless Ice Sea – in the north to the Southern Ocean. It is around 3,500 miles wide at its widest extent in the south. These dimensions comfortably make Kara-Tur the largest of Toril’s continents, especially when the extensive Wa and Kozakura island chains (among others) are added to the landmass. Kara-Tur is bordered by the Great Ice Sea, the Endless Waste and the Yehimal to the west and by the Yellow Sea, Celestial Sea and Eastern Sea in the east.

Faerun - Kara-Tur Trade Routes

A map showing the three principle trade routes between Faerûn and Kara-Tur. Please click for a larger version.

Trade Links with Faerûn

Faerûn and Kara-Tur enjoy regular travel and trade, and three great overland trade routes link the two continents.

The northern-most route is known as the Golden Way in Faerûn and the Spice Road in Kara-Tur. It extends from the port of Telflamm on Faerûn’s Inner Sea all the way to the Shou city of Chao Yang, from which further highways extend to Kuo Te’ Lung, the capital city of Shou Lung. It is roughly 3,400 miles from Telflamm to Chao Yang by road, with a further 1,600 miles required to reach the Shou capital. This route is obviously the longest of the three, but also the most convenient for nations of Faerûn’s Heartlands. This route was shut down by the Tuigan war of 1359-60 DR, but since the end of the war the Tuigan have reopened the trade route in return for (so far) relatively modest tribute for crossing their lands.

The central road is known as the Silk Route and extends from Dhaztanar, the port capital of Semphar on Brightstar Lake, to the Shou city of Yenching. This route is considerably shorter than the northern at just under 2,000 miles (with another 1,300 miles required to reach the Shou capital) and minimises the time spent in the Hordelands, with only a relatively modest distance to be covered between Howling Gap and the Alashan Pass into Khazari. However, this route tends to be the most expensive. Both Semphar and Khazari tax trade goods passing through their territories to the point that the northern route may appear preferable, despite being longer. There is also the issue of getting to Dhaztanar, which is already so far east – to the east of Mulhorand and even Murghôm – that it doesn’t even appear on many maps of Faerûn. To put this in context, the distance from Waterdeep to Dhaztanar is significantly greater than the distance from Dhaztanar to the Shou capital.

The southern-most route, and the least-known, is the winding pass between the Katakoro Plateau of Kara-Tur and the kingdom of Ulgarth in the Utter East of Faerûn. This route begins at the port of Suormpar on the Golden Water and extends north and east through the towering Katakoro Mountains (a north-western arm of the Yehimal) onto the plateau. The road then winds eastwards along the Upper Hungste to the Shou port of Mishan. This route is a relatively modest 1,600 miles in length and, since Mishan on the wide and fast-flowing Hungste, one of the great rivers of Kara-Tur, provides much speedier access to the Shou interior. However, the same problem applies here on much greater scale: Ulgarth is in the far south-eastern corner of Faerûn and the time spent travelling to Ulgarth could be better spent just traversing one of the other routes. Ulgarth does have the benefit of being located on the external ocean (the Great Sea, via the Golden Water), which means for traders travelling from Estagund, Halruaa, Samarach, Nimbral, Lantan or even Calimshan, there are arguments for travelling by sea to Suormpar and then overland. A counter-argument is that the pass through the Katakoro Mountains can be unreliable, closed by bad weather or avalanches, and the stretch of road along the Hungste west of Mishan is in unclaimed territory, with a dramatically increased risk of bandit attack.

Another option is by sea, although this is both lengthy and costly. Experiments to open a northern sea route to Kara-Tur via the Endless Ice Sea have ended so far in failure. Although routes around Faerûn’s northern coast do open in the summer, they tend to be fleeting and a ship will do well to get from the Trackless Sea to the Great Ice Sea before the routes close. There are no viable ports on the Great Ice Sea, and Kara-Tur’s northern coast extends for a vast distance to the east, more than can easily be covered by a single voyage.

The southern route is more doable, but is somewhat hazardous, requiring as does a skilled navigator to pass through the maze of islands to the west of Zakhara (most of them uncharted, with corsairs and pirates a common problem), then turning east through the well-named Crowded Sea, then across the only-partially charted Segara Sea and then around Kara-Tur’s vast, inhospitable southern coast before finally making landfall in T’u Lung. Faerûnian traders generally prefer the intermediary trade, of visiting only Zakhara and then buying Kara-Tur goods or selling their own wares there, which depending on demand and the goods in question can be more cost-effective.

A more direct route has been proposed, by circumnavigating the globe and travelling west to reach Kara-Tur from the east. It was during a very attempt to do this by Captain Cordell and the Golden Legion of Amn in 1361 that led to the discovery of the western continent of Maztica. Faerûnian explorers and traders have gotten caught up in the exploration of Maztica instead, but the original plan remains valid, especially since a sea route from the Trackless Sea into the Eastern Sea via the Straits of Lopango is known to exist. However, travelling to Kara-Tur by this method would entail a sea voyage of more than 20,000 miles across vast stretches of open, featureless ocean, which so far has daunted even the bravest sea captain. There are also logistical issues, with no safe port known to exist between south-eastern Maztica and Kara-Tur for resupply.

For the time being, adventurers and traders alike stick to one of the most trusted routes.

Kara-Tur

Political entities of Kara-Tur. Please click for a larger version.

Major Polities of Kara-Tur

If Faerûn is the land of kingdoms and city-states, Kara-Tur is the land of empires. Colossal nation-states stretch across Kara-Tur, several of them so vast that they have provinces and even districts that could swallow the largest Faerûn nations whole. Shou Lung’s Chukei Province, by itself, is far larger than Faerûn’s entire Western Heartlands, whilst noble Cormyr is still smaller than Shou Lung’s smallest province.

 

Shou Lung

The Shou Lung Empire lays claim to being the largest, most populous and most powerful nation on Faerûn. The first two claims are indisputable. More than 2,500 miles fall between the empire’s northern-most and southern-most borders, and some 2,200 miles between the east and rest. The entire continent of Zakhara could fit into the empire with plenty of room left over.

In terms of population, the sheer number of people living inside Shou Lung is staggering. It is said that Shou Lung’s human population may exceed 100 million, which is more than the combined numbers of humans and non-humans living on the entire continent of Faerûn (currently estimated at just under 80 million). A colossal amount of Shou Lung’s land has been turned over to feeding this vast population, with immense rice valleys stretching for hundreds of miles along the major river-valleys, and fields cut out of the side of mountains through engineering and magical feats unlike anything seen in the west. Gigantic highways criss-cross the empire, which is defended by an army said to number more than a million strong, although it is also scattered across a vast swathe of territory, having to defend the southern border with T’u Lung and the Warring States, the Dragonwall against the Endless Waste, the western border with the lawless Katakoro Plateau and the eastern coast against naval adventurers from Wa and Kozakura.

Shou Lung is divided into fourteen provinces: Chukei, Mai Yuan, Ching Tung, Sheng Ti, Wa K’an, Ti Erte, Hungste, Kao Shan, Wang Kuo, Hai Yuan, Yu’ I, Arakin, Chu Yuan and Tien Lun. Its capital city is Kuo Te’ Lung and its largest port is Karatin, both on the Hungste River. Its current ruler (as of 1371 DR) is Kai Tsao Shou Chin, Lord of the Jade Throne.

 

T’u Lung

T’u Lung is Shou Lung’s more fractious neighbour to the south. It was originally part of Shou Lung, but broke away 300 years ago when the empire was divided between two rival emperors. Shou Lung has tried several times to invade and reclaim T’u Lung, but failed to do so; devoting the manpower required to fully subdue the breakaway kingdom would endanger the empire’s other frontiers. T’u Lung has also faced a bitter and bloody internal civil war, which only recently ended.

Despite these struggles, T’u Lung may well be the second-largest and second-most populous nation on Toril, although it is more divided and fractious than Shou Lung. It also has more border challenges than Shou Lung, having to hold its frontiers against Petan, the Warring States, the Kuong Kingdom, the hill-tribes of the Purang and the jungle kingdom of Laothan to the south-east.

It consists of six provinces as follows: Joi Chang, Ausa, West Wai, East Wai, Bashan Do and vast Fengnao. Its capital city is Wai (formerly Chia Wan Ch’uan) and its largest port is Ausa. Its current ruler is Wai Yong, tenth Emperor of the Lui Dynasty.

 

Khazari

Khazari is an intermediary kingdom on the Silk Route, located east of Semphar and west of Shou Lung, high up in the Katakoro Mountains. It is sometimes counted as part of the Hordelands, rather than Kara-Tur. Khazari is a land of trade and religious piety, but is divided by corruption and internal politics.

Khazari’s capital city is Skarou, with the town of Alashan guarding the Silk Route west to Semphar. The fortress-town of Manass watches over the Hordelands to the north. The nation’s ruler is Prince Ogandi, a canny ruler who took advantage of a threatened Tuigan invasion in 1359 to consolidate power and authority under his banner.

 

Ra-Khati

Ra-Khati is a secretive and almost unknown country located south and west of Khazari, deep in the heart of the Katakoro Shan. Unlike Khazari, which lays in a vast bowl of open land between the mountain peaks, Ra-Khati winds between the mountains and lakes. Towns and villages are built around the rivers, streams and lakes of the country.

Ra-Khati’s capital city is Saikhoi. Its ruler is the Dalai Lama (high priest) Tsenya Garbo. The kingdom was invaded and conquered by Ambuchar Devayam, the Necromancer Emperor of Solon, in 1360; the nation was liberated in 1362 when Devayam was slain in Khazari and the rule of the Dalai Lama restored.

 

Tabot

Tabot is a large kingdom located on the eastern flanks of the Yehimal, the tallest peaks on all of Toril. The mountains tower a staggering 35,000 feet or more above sea level and few who have tried to climb them have ever returned.

Tabot consists of two immense valleys separated by the Peerless Mountains but joined by the Lokar Pass. The kingdom is decentralised, with authority shared between the great monastery-fortresses and local rulers.

Tabot’s cultural and trading capital is U’Chan Gompa (formerly Koko Nur).

 

Petan

Petan is a small country located south-west of T’u Lung, along the lower Fenghsintzu River (T’u Lung’s greatest river network) and the Rendah, north of the Intan Mountains.

Relatively little is known of Petan, save it seems to be relatively peaceable but fierce in its independence. Its capital city is Penting.

 

The Warring States

The Warring States are a small number of petty-kingdoms, bandit principalities and tribelands located east of Petan and south of T’u Lung, in the jungles north of the Malatran Plateau. Little is known of the States beyond their unrelenting hostility.

 

Kuong

The vast but secretive Kuong Kingdom is located in the jungles of south-eastern Kara-Tur, south of T’u Lung and Purang, east of the Warring States and south-west of Laothan. The Himasla Mountains form the southern border of the kingdom and the vast Malatran Plateau forms the western.

Kuong is a strongly unified country whose people obey their rulers unquestioningly. The nation has a strong army and a strong economy, thanks to a well-developed system of internal markets and trade with surrounding nations. Kuong’s remoteness and its apparent primitivism hides its true strength. The T’u like to think of the Kuong as a primitive and barbarian people, although their generals are less relaxed about the network of strong Kuong fortresses located along their mutual river border.

Kuong is ruled by the Priest-King Vishnan VII from the city of Ranguri, located on the Kunong River, deep in the jungle. The kingdom’s largest port is Marabaya on the Eastern Sea.

 

Purang

The Purang Hills form a complex highland landscape extending almost from Bukai Lake to the Laothan and Kuong jungles, around the headwaters of the Henai. The tribes of the hills are a mixture of friendly and the decidedly militant.

The Purang do not recognise a single capital, although Kumok is their largest settlement and the White Monkey Tribe who control it are the friendliest and most open to external trade. The unrelentingly hostile Twisted Palm tribe, which controls the southern hills near the jungle, is best avoided.

 

Laothan

Laothan is a large kingdom stretching along the south-eastern coast of Kara-Tur, south and east of T’u Lung, east of Purang and north-east of the Kuong Kingdom. The Laothan nation is actually an alliance of tribes known as the Seng; the Thok are the largest and currently most dominant tribe of the Seng. The Seng people settled down some centuries ago and are currently transitioning to farming and trade as their main sources of income rather than migratory wanderings.

Laothan’s capital is Cheinang. Its current ruler is Thok Lian.

 

Malatra

Malatra is not a political entity, but a geographic one. The term “Malatra” is used in Shou and T’u Lung to refer to all the jungle lands to the south, although this is inaccurate. Malatra proper is the name of a vast plateau in southern Kara-Tur. Almost a thousand miles across, the plateau towers a thousand feet or more above the surrounding lands. Access to Malatra is extremely difficult, with some believing it is protected by magical and religious forces as well as simple geographic inaccessibility.

Those who have managed to enter Malatra report a land dominated by the so-called “Living Jungle” and divided into regions by savannahs, rivers, volcanoes and mountains. Remote and mysterious, Malatra daunts even the most dedicated explorers.

 

The Tribes of Ama Basin

Ama Basin is located north of Shou Lung, beyond the Koryaz Mountains. The basin is colossal, stretching for two thousand miles from east to west and almost eight hundred from north to south. The central part of the basin is dominated by a marshy swamp, easily the largest on Toril, with extensive forests surrounding it.

The forests are home to powerful tribal groupings, at least three of which are strong enough to be called nations: the Pazruki in the west, the Issacortae in the central region and the Wu-haltai in the east. These three tribal nations are secretive and keep to themselves, but are somewhat open to external trade; the Wu-haltai have permitted the building of the great coast road linking Shou Lung to Koyro.

 

Koryo

Koryo is located on the peninsula of the same name. The peninsula is slow to reach by land, as the only existing road goes right around the far northern coast of the Yellow Sea and requires negotiating passage across Wu-haltai lands and various tribes who control the northern part of the peninsula. Most travellers visit the country by ship instead.

As the north-eastern-most nation on the main landmass (an impressive seven and a half thousand miles due east of Waterdeep), Koryo is remote and relatively little-known. It is an alliance of three formerly independent kingdoms: the island nation of Saishu, the Koguryo Peninsula and Silla, the heartland of the kingdom. The three nations were forcibly united by the King of Silla, but subsequent rulers have tried to integrate the three kingdoms more peaceably.

Koryo is a heavily defended nation due to the twin threats of barbarian invaders from the north of the peninsula and the constant threat of invasion from Kozakura. Koryo has thrown back multiple invasions from Kozakura but has also launched assaults itself, once invading the northern island of Shinkoku before being driven back into the sea. The enmity between the two kingdoms is such that no Kozakuran citizen is permitted to set foot in Koryo and Kozakuran currency is not accepted. Koryo does enjoy strong relations with Wa and distant but cordial trading relations with Shou Lung.

Koryo’s capital city is Xi Hulang. It is currently ruled by King Wanang Sun.

 

Wa

Off the southern tip of Koyro lies a huge archipelago of sizeable islands. The archipelago is divided between two powerful empires, Wa in the west and Kozakura in the east.

Wa consists of the islands of Tsukishima, Shidekima, Paikai and Machukara. Wa also claims the Outer Isles located to its south-west, not for territory but to protect outsiders from them. Hidden amongst these islands is the Isle of Gargantuas, home to beasts of titanic size, each capable of comfortably destroying entire cities by itself.

Wa is a peaceful nation under the rule of law. Wa has enjoyed a longer period of peace than any other nation in Kara-Tur and has pursued a path of mercantile trade in recent centuries, with its ships trading from Koryo to Zakhara. Aside from occasional border naval clashes with Kozakura, Wa has not engaged in warfare for centuries and its policies are around continuing the current status quo. How long this is practical, especially as there is some evidence of growing internal dissent by the peasantry, is unclear.

Wa is ruled from the city of Uwaji by Shogun Matasuuri Nagahide. On paper, the Shogun is merely the military governor of the nation and rules at the pleasure of the Emperor; in reality, the Shogun (the most powerful of the daimyo or warlords) holds the true power in Wa and the Emperor rules merely as a figurehead.

 

Kozakura

Like Wa, Kozakura is a sprawling island empire. Unlike Wa, Kozakura is a land of constant, bitter struggle which has been in a state of constant political intrigue, occasionally spilling into open civil war, for decades. Kozakura has unified several times for attempted invasions of Koryo, the failures of which have sparked further internal dissent.

Kozakura sprawls across the islands of Shinkoku, Tenmai, Mikedono and Hinomoto. Shinkoku is the largest island and the site of the imperial capital.

Kozakura is ruled from the city of Dojyu by Emperor Gonijo, who took the throne at a young age. As is his tradition this did not happen upon his father’s death, but upon his “retirement.” Retired Emperor Gokammu still lives and provides advice and assistant to his former heir. As in Wa, the Emperor’s power and influence is less than it was, although the Kozakuran Emperor is perhaps not quite as powerless as his western counterpart. The Kozakuran Shogun, currently Hojo Kawakubo, commands the empire’s armies and wields considerable authority, but he also has to work harder to maintain the loyalty of his daimyos.

 

Note

As with my other maps, this one started with the base map from the Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas (1999). However, in this case there was an error in the base map, as the Malatran Plateau had been placed in the wrong place based on misinformation. As a result, Malatra as depicted in the original map was far, far too small compared to the original maps (from the Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition “Living Jungle” campaign) and the text descriptions.

As a result, I deviated to follow the solution proposed by mapmaker Markustay a decade ago, of moving Malatra to the south-west and expanding its size to compensate, which worked very well.

Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content before it goes live on my blogs.

A Map of Zakhara

Following on from my maps of the Forgotten Realms continents of Faerûn and Maztica, here is a map of the continent of Zakhara.

Zakhara

A map of the continent of Zakhara. Please click for a larger version.

Zakhara, also known as the Land of Fate, is part of the same supercontinent or landmass as Faerûn and Kara-Tur. It is located south and south-east of Faerûn across the Great Sea, and south-west of Kara-Turn across the Segara Sea. Of the other major continental landmasses, it is the easiest to travel to, as it is located a relatively mild 1,000 miles south of Var the Golden across the north-eastern most gulf of the Great Sea, and well-established trade routes link ports in Dambrath, Luiren, Estagund, Var, Durpar and Ulgarth to northern Zakhara.

The mainland of Zakhara extends for approximately 1,800 miles from north to south and around the same from east to west at the continent’s widest point. These dimensions make Zakhara comfortably the smallest of Toril’s known continents. There are, however, extensive island chains located to the west and south of Zakhara which are generally held to be within the Zakharan sphere of influence, and including these were increase the size of Zakhara considerably (especially the islands of the Crowded Sea, which resemble a partially-submerged continuation of the mainland).

 

Politics in Zakhara

Technically, Zakhara is unified as a single grand nation under the rule of the Grand Caliph of Golden Huzuz, the City of Delights. However, this is less true in reality, where the cities of Zakhara pay lip service (if even that) to the Grand Caliph but otherwise go their own way. Local maps of Zakhara thus show the continent as a single nation with Huzuz as its capital, but realistically most cities in Zakhara are independent city-states.

 

Geographic Regions of Zakhara

Zakhara consists of several key geographic regions, as follows.

  • The Yikarian Empire in the north, also known as the Land of the Yak-Men. The Yikarian Empire sprawls across the World Pillar Mountains and the surrounding regions, extending north to the borders of Konigheim (the extreme south-easternmost nation of Faerûn) and west to the Great Sea at the port of Lipo. The Empire cuts off all mainland travel from Zakhara to Faerûn, although it is centred in the great city of Nathong, high in the mountains. The Yikarians are a hostile race who believe all other species are fit only to be enslaved. The Yikarians of Lipo are somewhat more enlightened and are more open to trade.
  • The Cities of the North, also called the Free Cities, are located along the north-western coast of Zakhara and stretch for some 880 miles from Mina to Hafayah. These cities are built around mercantile trade with one another along the coast and with Faerûn across the Great Sea. The largest and most powerful of their number is Qudra, one of the Three Great Cities of Zakhara, but all are relatively rich and prosperous.
  • The Corsair Domains, a cluster of islands located off the north-western coast. The Corsair Domains are, as the name suggests, a haven for pirates, brigands and escaped slaves. The corsairs profess loyalty to the Grand Caliph and for this reason direct most of their piracy north to the coasts of Dambrath, Luiren, Estagun and Var (although generally not, after several pointed lessons by the native mage-lords, Halruaa). However, the corsair princes do have an unrelenting hatred of the mamluks of Qudra, among the richest slave-owners in Zakhara, and have been known to all on Qudrese shipping with abandon on occasion.
  • The Haunted Lands are located within and dominate the continent interior of Zakhara. They stretch from the World Pillar Mountains south and west to Suq Bay and the Sea of Caravans, and from the Furrowed Mountains in the north-west to the ruined kingdoms of Nog and Kadar in the south-east. The Haunted Lands form the larger of Zakhara’s two major deserts. As the name suggests, they are filled with the ruins from ancient civilisations. The desert itself is divided between different landforms, such as the Weeping Desert and the baking hot wastelands known as the Burning Lands and the Great Anvil, as well as the Sea of Salt and the isolated valley known as the Genie’s Garden.
  • The High Desert is located south-west of the Sea of Caravans and Suq Bay, and is the smaller and less hostile of Zakhara’s two major deserts. Several roads crisscross the High Desert and oases and small towns are more commonplace. At the south-western fringe of the desert lies the city of Akota, most isolated of Zakhara’s cities, which monopolises trade with the large island archipelago to the west (which some hold is also called Akota).
  • The Cities of the Pearl are a group of city-states located along the edges of the High Desert, stretching from Tajar in the north to Ajayib in the south. These cities were fixated mainly on mercantile trade, especially in luxury goods and rarities such as precious metals and pearls.
  • The Cities of the Heart are the part of Zakhara which lies at its geographic centre, most notably the relatively fertile and clement lands around Suq Bay and the Sea of Caravans, the two internal waterways which almost cut the continent in half. Zakhara’s two largest cities are located in this region, Hiyal at the northern end of Suq Bay and Huzuz at the far south, near where it opens into the Golden Gulf. Several other notable cities are to be found in this region, including Halwa and Wasat.
  • Huzuz, often called Golden Huzuz or the City of Delights, is the largest city in Zakhara and considered the continent’s cultural, religious and sometimes political capital. It sprawls for many miles along the Al-Sarif River, from near its mouth to some distance inland. Huzuz proclaims itself the grandest city in the world, with its dizzying array of golden temples, the Grand Caliph’s daunting palace and its vast markets, all surrounding by merchants and residents’ districts unfolding further than the eye can sea. The city’s claim to be the largest on Toril is debatable – Calimport in Faerûn and Karatin in Kara-Tur are both notable challengers – but it is certainly one of the most impressive.
  • The League of the Pantheon lies to the south-east of Huzuz (to which it is closely allied) and consists of several cities unified in the strict belief of the Zakharan pantheon and no other gods. The cities are noted for their conservatism.
  • The Ruined Kingdoms are located south and east of the Haunted Lands, along Zakhara’s much wetter eastern coast. The two kingdoms were Kadar in the south-west and Nog in the north-east. Many of the towns and settlements in this region used to be part of these ancient kingdoms ere their fall and have come late to the cultural beliefs of the rest of Zakhara. The most notable city in this region is Kadarasto, believed to be the ancient capital of Kadar but now a much more modest trading settlement on the Nogaro. The northern part of this region is uncomfortably close to the Yikarian Empire, so is generally avoided. Further north, the overland route to Tabot and the other south-western kingdoms of Kara-Tur is blocked by the vast Sempadan Jungle, which is infested with hostile creatures. The entire region is ill-omened, leading to its relatively low population despite it being more hospitable than the desert interior. The Ruined Kingdoms extend to the nearby islands of Sahu and Afyal as well.
  • The Crowded Sea is well-named, for its refers to both the waterways and the many hundreds of islands south of mainland Zakhara, stretching from the Isles of the Crab in the west to the Wild Isle of Bariya some 1,700 miles to the east and for around a thousand miles from the Golden Gulf in the north to the fringes of the cool Southern Ocean. Notable islands include Harab (the Isle of War), the Steaming Isles, the Djinni’s Claws, the Nada al-Hazan, the Al-Zulm and Al-Qirmiza chains and the distant Islands of the Utter South. Some of the islands are heavily settled and trade with the mainland, some are wild and untouched by civilisation and some are home to ancient ruins of unknown origin.

Al-Qadim

Behind the Scenes

Zakhara is the setting of the Al-Qadim campaign setting, developed by Jeff Grubb and Andria Hayday for the Dungeons and Dragons game. It was part of the big wave of campaign settings developed for the 2nd Edition of D&D, being the fourth released (after SpelljammerRavenloft and Dark Sun). Unlike those settings, Al-Qadim was designed to be a short-run product line, but the early releases were much more successful than expected, leading it to be being expanded before a sharp drop-off in sales led to it being cancelled.

Part of Al-Qadim‘s success may have been down to its canonical location being part of the same planet as the Forgotten Realms product line, although the Al-Qadim line carried its own logo and distinct visual art style and identity. The idea of a “fantasy Arabia” fit in with a line of products TSR had developed for non-European settings, which had also resulted in “fantasy Asia” (with Kara-Tur and the Oriental Adventures sub-line of products), “fantasy Mesoamerica” (Maztica) and “fantasy Mongolia” (the Horde line of products). Forgotten Realms creator Ed Greenwood had envisaged his world as not being so distinctly comparable to real-world cultures, so was somewhat cool on this approach (especially the “fantasy Egypt and Babylon” nations of Mulhorand and Unther). It’s notable that Zakhara is the only one of these lands to be marketed separately from the rest of the Realms, with an emphasis on adding Zakhara to an already-existing DM’s campaign world.

Al-Qadim did have one benefit on the core Forgotten Realms product line, as it made the earlier, slightly more cartoonish “fantasy Arabia” vibe of Calimshan rather redundant, so when it was fleshed out in later products (particularly Steven Schend’s superb Empires of the Shining Sea boxed set) it moved away from that influence and more towards a kind-of fantasy Ottoman Empire vibe, which was much more appropriate and interesting.

Al-Qadim, by the way, was supposed to be an Arab translation of “The Ancient,” but it was later discovered that, depending on context, it was more literally translated as “The Old” or even “The Stale.”

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A Map of Maztica

After my well-received map of Faerûn, I received some requests to map some of the other continents of Toril in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. Although a map of Kara-Tur is likely some way off – it would require almost as much work as Faerûn – and there isn’t enough information on Katashaka or Ossë to make mapping them viable,  I have decided to add maps of Maztica and Zakhara. Zakhara will follow at some point, but the Maztica map is completed.

Maztica

A map of Maztica. Please click for a larger version.

Maztica, referred to by its natives as “the True World” and by the colonialist Faerûnians who “discovered” it as “the New World”, lies to the west of Faerûn across the Trackless Sea. It was only officially “discovered” ten years ago, in 1361 DR, by Captain Cordell of the Golden Company of Amn, who landed a fleet on the east coast. However, it is believed that the elves of nearby Evermeet had much greater knowledge of the continent extending back millennia, and the Northmen of the Trackless Sea may have explored some of its north-eastern fringes some time ago without realising it was part of a much greater landmass.

The explored region of Maztica lies towards the southern end of the continent and runs from roughly due west of Amn to due west of Chult and Halruaa. This region extends for about 1,800 miles from north to south is about 800 miles wide. Magical divinations have revealed that the entire landmass extends for 4,500 miles from north to south and is around 2,000 miles wide at its widest extent in the north, and incorporates several offshore islands.

 

Nomenclature

One of the most fiercely-debated topics in Faerûnian cartographic circles – to the point where blows have been exchanged and curses sought – is to what extent “Maztica” should be said to incorporate the entire landmass or if it should only be said to include the southern explored region. This point is debate most fiercely between the merchant lords of Amn, who “discovered” the continent and gave it its name (actually adapting the local name), and the Dukes of Baldur’s Gate, who hold that Maztica is in actuality the fabled  and over-accented continent of Anchôromé, discovered by great Balduran himself, and the entire landmass should be known by that name. A compromise, that “Maztica” applies to the southern region and Anchôromé to the north, has achieved some popularity in recent years.

However, this compromise has been rejected by some learned mages of note, who instead contend that Anchôromé is more properly the name given to a vast archipelago of hundreds of islands located off the north-eastern coast of Maztica and extending to within 300 miles of the island kingdom of Tuern, far to the north-east of Evermeet, and Balduran’s explorations were actually in this region and he never set foot on the continent beyond. The matter remains fiercely debated.

 

Faerûnian Colonies in the True World

Several nations and powers of Faerûn have established holdings on the continent of Maztica but a full-scale colonisation effort has been prevented due to the events following Captain Cordell’s arrival. Cordell’s small army, with its heavy armour, stronger weapons and offensive magic, proved superior to the natives of Payit and Pezelac, the regions where they landed (and which are now loosely grouped as “New Amn,” a grandiose name that suggests more authority than the Amnians actually have), but was less effective against the professional, well-trained army of Kultaka to the west and to the extremely hostile depredations of the Nexalese Empire to the south-west. After a series of brutal battles, a series of events was set in motion that saw the restoration of the exiled Maztican god Qotal, the utter destruction of Nexal by volcanic eruption and the formation of a loose alliance between the Amnian forces and several native powers.

In the resulting chaos, the Maztican pantheon, represented by the god Qotal, permitted the establishment of Faerûnian colonies in Maztica without contest in a limited manner, as recompense for the Faerûnian help (particularly of those followers of Helm among the Amnian mercenaries) in destroying Nexal and restoring balance to Maztica. Any large-scale invasion of Maztica by Faerûnian powers would be extremely ill-advised, as it would also require both a magical and religious incursion into areas controlled by a different pantheon, and only achievable by endangering the Balance of the planet (maintained by Ao).

The current colonies in Maztica are therefore limited, consisting solely of Helmsport (which is essentially a district of the native port of Ulatos given over to the Amnians), New Waterdeep on the Gulf of Kultaka, Trythosford (a sub-colony of New Waterdeep) to the far north and Fort Flame (a colony of Baldur’s Gate) even further north, on the Bay of Balduran. Another outpost established by Fort Flame to the north was destroyed some years ago. Worshippers of Gond in Lantan have also built the Great Lighthouse on the island of St. Ippen, but have not yet established holdings on the mainland.

 

Geographic Regions of Maztica

Explored Maztica consists of several key geographic regions.

  • The Pasocada Basin (consisting of badlands, mesas, buttes and river valleys) in the north-west, dominated by Mihaca, the fabled City of Gold.
  • The Borderlands, dominated by the Faerûnian colonies of New Waterdeep and Trythosford.
  • Huacli, a nation of city-states conquered by Nexal but which recently regained its freedom.
  • Nexal, formerly the greatest empire in the True World until its destruction ten years ago.
  • Kultaka, a fierce nation of (mostly) honourable warriors who defend its independence with ferocity, but are happy to trade with friendly outlanders.
  • Pezelac and Payit, more temperate lands which are united (somewhat uneasily) with Faerûnian colonists as the nation of New Amn (a name which suggests a much firmer outlander control of the region that perhaps is the case).
  • Far Payit, consisting of a massive peninsula, dominated by the Narabatun and Ocostun jungles and the Palankal mountain range that forms its spine.
  • Kolan, a nation on the west coast which blended several Maztican cultures, including the Nexalese of the north and the Green Folk of the south. Kolan paid tribute to Nexal, but has recently regained full autonomy.
  • The House of Tezca, a vast desert extending far to the south.
  • The Chapultelel Jungle, which extends across the entire southern end of the landmass and is the home of the Green Folk, a private people.
  • Lopango, the Land of Fire, which consists of a large mountain range (with some active volcanoes) rising up beyond Chapultelel and dominating a large body of land beyond (which rivals the rest of explored Maztica in size). Attempts to explore this region have met with fierce resistance by the natives. Beyond Lopango lies the unexplored continent of Katashaka.

 

Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content before it goes live on my blogs.