The Archipelago

General

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The Archipelago

The Archipelago has a subtropical to temperate climate and is located just off the southern shores of the Searing Desert, between the Daunting Waves and the World's End. Between its large islands and the shores of the desert lie easily more than thirty miles. Various small islands are located in the waters in between, allowing one to reach the Archipelago rather easily with ships that are only able to brave coastal waters. As the name implies, this region consists of many large and small islands, which are all volcanic in origin. Hence the landmasses near the edge of the Archipelago all feature mountain ranges. They, if looked at from space, form a large V. Unfortunately, the volcanic origin also means that cataclysmic tectonic events are not all that rare in this region. Most volcanoes are inactive, but some do still erupt. The Blaz have witnessed plumes of smoke and ash rising in the far south. Beyond such sightings, the Archipelago is a great mystery to all Threans. It's completely uncharted and unclaimed. Even the Blazkul and -lin never bothered exploring it. The mainland keeps them busy enough and they don't like to leave their holy paradise, the Searing Desert.

Geography

Geography-wise, the Archipelago lives up to its name. Ten huge islands, multiple large ones, and hundreds of small and tiny islands make up the entire landmass of this region. The smallest islands are the rocky, chaotic tips of underwater volcanoes that poke through the surface. Some of them pose quite a danger to ships, being hard to spot and yet able to pierce wooden hulls. All of the landmass has been created through volcanic eruptions, but it has been heavily affected by erosion. Water and wind cut through the islands, separating smaller chunks of land from the fiery mountains that created them. All the isles in the center of the archipelago were created that way.

Naturally, due to the volcanic origin, the land is rather uneven. Each island near the edge of the Archipelago has volcanic mountains. While most of them are inactive, a small few of them still show signs of activity and have erupted in the past and may do so again in the near or far future. These eruptions tend to be very powerful and could be fatal for anyone inhabiting the isles. Overall, the closer one moves towards the volcanoes, the hillier and more broken up the land becomes. Plains are impossible to find, but at least the shores are mostly flat. Shores with cliffs are most commonly found nearby the volcanoes, if anywhere.

The uneven land and the depressions that it has are a blessing for the local flora and fauna. Rain and water flowing down from the mountains turns them into lakes and ponds that irrigate the surroundings. Even some of the volcanic cauldrons have filled up with water, creating gigantic lakes from which rivers flow down and part the land. River gorges that cut their path through volcanic rock are quite a sight.

Climate

The Archipelago stretches from the end of the southern subtropical zone to the start of the southern temperate zone, thus the climate varies quite a bit between the north and the south. As a result, they shall be detailed individually. In the north, the climate is slightly humid and rather warm. The proximity to the equator grants it hot summers and mild winters. The large body of water all around ensures that there's plenty to vaporize and that clouds can form right in the Archipelago, granting it the humidity its nature needs. Without the water between the islands, they would be arid, due to the surrounding mountains granting it rain shadow. This is true for the entire region.

Closer to the southern end, the seasons become more pronounced and the climate more temperate. Summers are milder and the winters are colder. It even snows, but not nearly as harshly as it does in northern Threa. Winter is rather moderate most of the time, due to a lack of cold polar winds. There's no frozen regions nearby and the mountains protect the entire Archipelago from being influenced by winds coming from any side but the northeast.

Across the entire Archipelago, all forms of weather are possible, but rain is more common in the south than it is in the north.

Flora and Fauna

As the climate differs between the northern and the southern end of the Archipelago, so does its flora and fauna. All islands are covered in forests, but the forests in the north consist of plants with hard leaves, so called sclerophyllous plants. The plants of the southern end have broad leaves, being more adapted to a temperate than a hot climate. Across the entire region, all kinds of herbs, flowers, bushes, grasses, and other leafy plants thrive. Higher up on the mountains, even subtropical pine forests can be found.

The fauna of the Archipelago has many similarities to that of the Searing Desert, which implies that it must have had a connection to the mainland at some point. The large islands are home to many up to medium sized land animals of all types. These usually live in small packs, families, or alone. Herding animals simply have no space on the Archipelago. On the smaller isles, avians basically took over. Large animals simply can't survive on them. Birds are in fact the far the most common type of animal one can find on the islands, simply because they're able to travel between the landmasses so easily. Seals, penguins, otters, and other natural swimmers are also commonly found on the Archipelago, being well adapted to the environment. Due to being able to swim or fly vast distances during at least one phase of their life, giant insects have also managed to spread across all islands. Together with the avians, they form the bulk of the creatures that can be found on the smaller landmasses.

The water is even more lively than the land. Thousands of species of fish, clams, and other sea life can be found between the islands. Shallow straits and rocky underwater caves offer a great habitat for creatures that like to hide or need a lair to thrive. The most noteworthy life form in the waters are the Coastal Azkul, which is the only type of kul that lives in the Archipelago. They can be found everywhere in the Archipelago and are among the most dangerous predators that live there. Fishers are well advised to not stray too far from the shore or hop of their boats in the middle of the water! River Azkul don't inhabit the Archipelago, because the rivers are too narrow and shallow.

Natural Resources

Thanks to its friendly climate, the Archipelago is home to many useful animals and plants. Hunters can find plenty of medium-sized prey on the larger islands. On the smaller islands, they will have to make due with seals and birds. Seals are a great quarry, because they provide meat, thick hide, and blubber. The birds provide delicious meat, but in small amounts, and their pretty feathers, which could be used to fletch arrows or simply as decoration. An alternative to birds and other small animals are insects, especially the giant ones. They're a great source of proteins and calories. Fishing is another great option to acquire nourishment on the Archipelago, both near rivers and at the shore. Especially the shallow straits are full of all kinds of seafood. Overall, the fauna provides well for anyone who wishes to utilize it. However, there are no animals that could be used as mounts or beasts of burden. At most one could breed giant beetles and flightless birds as livestock.

The flora provides fibers,that are suitable for the production of strong or pretty textiles. Various fruit-bearing plants grow in the forests, too. They could potentially be cultivated by future colonists. While such plants are common across the entire region, herbs and spices can be most commonly found in the norther regions, where it is warmer. Thanks to the volcanic ash, the soil of the Archipelago is very fertile. Combined with the abundance of water, especially the southern islands are great for agriculture. All in all, the islands could feet many peoples.

Woodcutters will be satisfied by what they can cut down in the Archipelago. The trees are of good quality and are suitable for use in carpentry or as lumber. Clay is also available in satisfactory amounts. Thanks to the rocky, volcanic nature of the region, basalt can be found in such huge amounts that future settlers could build entire cities out of it. Other types of rock can only be found in relatively small amounts, making them rather valuable here.

Plenty of ores can also be dug up in the Archipelago, but none of them are being exploited. Copper is rare, tin is more common, and iron can be found in tremendous amounts in the mountains. Gold and in lesser amounts silver can also be found on the Archipelago, especially on its largest island. Even gemstones can be found there, which makes the island quite valuable for those who want to trade its natural wealth away. Crude oil and coal are present on a few island as well, but the presence of dense forests makes using charcoal more practical.

Known Locations

Due to the pleasant climate and the peaceful atmosphere, the Archipelago would make for a great spot for some vacation. It's also rather beautiful, thanks to various natural sights such as beaches covered in white sand, volcanoes that stand mighty above the land, river gorges, and deep dark caves that contain crystals, even glowing ones, and amazing rock formations. Traces of civilization are nowhere to be found, giving the land an untouched, even untainted feeling. It is wild and pure, a lovely place to see and stay in, especially for kul who prefer to live a more feral lifestyle.

Natural Locations
Sea Above Seas

The Sea Above Seas is located in the southwest, on the largest island of the Archipelago, right where the two mountain ridges that flank the Archipelago meet. It's a volcanic cauldron that filled up completely with crystal clear water, forming quite literally a lake in the sky. It is a beautiful place to swim in and relax nearby. Water flows through a few cracks in the cauldron, creating rivers that allow the whole island to thrive. This is ironic, because the Sea Above Seas itself is almost lifeless. The rivers are simply too steep, no fish or similar has managed to reach the lake among the clouds. Only various water plants and insects that require an aquatic environment have claimed the lake.