Sea of Shards
The Sea of Shards
The Sea of Shards is a bay along the southern Rimwater, which is the wide, circular ocean that encircles all of Allu. It is situated west of the twin waterfalls called the Broken Hearts which connect the Rimwater with the Heartwater; and it lies just east of the Dightmar Isles, where the human race situates its seat of power. The landmass surrounding the Sea itself is part of a largely inhospitable continent called Tarat; however, the two peninsulas that surround the Sea — Zephyr to the west, Ovindi to the east — are habitable, though Ovindi is mostly untamed jungle during the Age of Beasts.
At its widest point, the Sea of Shards is approximately 500 miles across. However, sailing directly across the Sea is all but impossible, not only because of the innumerable islands that cover its deepest waters, but also because the waters themselves pose a terrible destructive force, as the waves can change in a heartbeat, from welcoming water to eviscerating metal.
Early in the First Age, the Sea was home to the god Raulani, a minor deity whose task it was to create whirlpools, tsunamis, and other aquatic anomalies. Legends say that one of the asuras — diabolical outsiders whose aim it is to undermine the gods’ great tapestry — came upon Raulani in a waterlogged cave and seduced him in the form of a waterspout.
Raulani’s absence went unnoticed by the gods and Titans, allowing the asura, whose name was Apaxinis, to corrupt his mind so thoroughly that he abandoned his divine narrative, becoming instead obsessed with the myriad treasures that dwelt at the bottom of the sea. Untended, his menagerie of elementals broke free from their corral and wreaked havoc along the Rimwater, pulverizing much of Allu’s southwestern coast, and resulting in the creation of the Dightmar Isles.
In fury, the Titans sent their mightiest sea creatures to imprison Raulani. Taking refuge in the bay that would become the Sea of Shards, Raulani hurled islands at the monstrous army, resulting in the Shrapnel Isles. When a single colossal hydra survived, Raulani used his elemental might to convert the waves into razor-sharp blades, severing all fifty of the beast’s heads. The hydra’s body became the largest of the islands (appropriately named the Decapitate). After this bloodbath, the Titans left Raulani to his greed, lust, and madness, reassigning most of his former duties to Poseidon.
Throughout the Ages, the Sea of Shards has been closely tied to Raulani’s new obsessions — greed and lust. Mortal sailors believe that Raulani uses his undersea minions to gather treasure from across the breadth of the world, hoarding it in the Sea’s shoals and caves, where he believes it will be protected by his deadly blade-waves.
At the height of the Age of Gods (~500), a war erupted between the Titans (who created the gods to maintain Allu’s weave) and the free-willed gods. The Titans’ first (and quickly abandoned) strategy in the Weavers’ War involved attempts to create a chain of towers around the planet’s circumference; as a result, the ruins of several half-completed towers remain scattered throughout the Shrapnels.
The Titans also brought armies of cyclopes to guard the region, as well as aquatic monstrosities called makara to patrol beneath the waves. These creatures were given dual resistances to water and metal energies, in order to protect them from Raulani’s deadly waves. For several centuries after the Weavers’ War, these two races were dominant in the Sea of Shards; however, they were slowly made extinct by godforged beasts, including two of the most ferocious and unquenchable of all sea monsters, the Scylla and Charybdis.
Early in the Age of Beasts (~1,000), these two abominations moved south, into the open waters nearer the Rim. Their undersea empires grew, driving out other races, including the Rimwater merfolk, who migrated north towards the Dragonway. Only a few schools of merfolk have persisted in the Sea of Shards — but cut off from their sophisticated brethren, they have de-evolved into voracious savages.
The beasts who ruled the waters of the southern Rim also posed a threat to oversea traffic. In particular, the human tribe called the Rapti, whose home was just to the west, in the Dightmar Isles, sought to use the ocean currents to expand their growing colonial empire; however, the tributes demanded by Scylla were too dear, so they sought a route that would circumvent her territories. The Sea of Shards proved a convenient, if hazardous, alternative.
By the height of the Age of Beasts (~1,500), the Rapti occupy territories on either side of the Sea, with two major cities (High Simurgh and Low Simurgh) on the western peninsula (called Zephyr), and one rapidly growing colonial outpost (Firstclaw) on the eastern landmass (called Ovindi). They also lay a nominal claim to Shardhold, a fortress outpost situated on the southeastern tip of the Decapitate; but Shardhold is cut off from major trade routes, and is virtually lawless in practice.
Most of those who call the Sea of Shards home are either human Rapti, or else servants of slaves of the same powerful empire. The Rapti vessels can best any competition, not only because they are made of tough Ovindi lumber, but also because they bear guns and cannons — gunpowder being an exclusively human tool.
Yet, for every Rapti galleon that sails the Tarat Current, there are ten skiffs that fly the flag of Raulani. These pirates rely upon divine favour as they sail in and out of the Sea’s central archipelago, where the blade-waves can strike at any time. It takes a gifted pilot — or a blessed one — to last for long amidst the Shrapnel Isles.
In addition to the Rapti colonials, the Shards region boasts a colourful array of local cultures. The steppes of Zephyr have sizable populations of catfolk, minotaur, and aasimar, while the jungles of Ovindi are occupied mostly by ratfolk. Vishkanya traders, bolder than their Rapti rivals, lurk about the Sea’s southern waters, bribing the local merfolk population into performing terrorist acts against Rapti trading vessels. There are also rumours of mutant sagu occupying some islands in the Shrapnels. And there is many a superstitious sailor who swears to have seen a living cyclops, makara, or even a Titan still stalking about the jungles.