Boreas is the God of the North Wind and of Winter and this quarter is filled with ice-bound mountains, eyries, crag castles, hilltop towns, mines, cyclopes, harpies and minotaurs amongst others.The borders of Boreas are mountain ranges, tall, white-maned, slate grey mountains that reach up to the heavens. Crossing them directly can be hard but many mountain passes have been carved through their towering walls. Tunnels have been dug into the mountain sides that lead into subterranean city complexes where minotaurs and other fell creatures dwell. If the outer edges were transparent, like a cutaway ant’s nest, you would see that the mountains are riddled with such passages. Many lead up and in to the high sierra of the interior, through underground cities, mines, burrows, pits and shafts. It is is easy to get lost in these labyrinthine passages – safer to take one of the high passes.
If you go up through a pass and down the other side, you will descend into the table-top plateau beyond, a great alpine steppe, bounded on all sides by silver-capped, cloud-bound mountain peaks. The plateau is where Boreas, the winter wind, dwells.Unlike the other Gods, Boreas does not sleep. He cannot sleep for he is bound to blow for all time. Once, as a God, he could choose when winter came, whether it be early or late, whether to bring rains for crops or to drown them with floods, or to unleash storms upon ships at sea or relent and let sea-soaked sailors live or die according to his whim. Boreas delighted in the sacrifices made to him by those who sought to appease his terrible power. But now he is bound by mankind’s science. Science that has decided how the world works, how he shall work. As the divine power of the gods declined so did the inevitable, inescapable power of reason rise to eclipse everything that had gone before. Now he must follow the rules and strictures of man’s ineluctable logic. He must blow when unknown forces he will never understand impel him to do so, rest when he must rest according to a system he is incapable of comprehending. Gales, hurricanes, tornadoes, gusts, breezes or soft zephyrs are not his to decide. He is no longer the master of his own destiny, and so he rages across the high steppes, screaming his incoherent anger at the empty skies.
In the middle of the plateau is a tall column of granite that spears upward into the clouds. Upon it rests the Fortress of Winds where Boreas himself lives. But he is rarely to be found here. He spends most of his time rushing across the frozen flatlands, howling his hopeless hatred of his lot. That’s if he is not ‘working’. Boreas hates ‘working’ too.Elsewhere, there are are four mountains that rise up out of the plateau, separate from the mountain ranges at the edges, Mt Helikon, Mt Atos, Mt Othri and Mt Nysa. These were once home to the Oreads, members of the Ourea, young goddesses of the mountains, the children of the earth goddess Gaia. These Mountain Nymphs, the rulers of Boreas, have not been seen in aeons. It is said they sleep inside their mountain fastnesses awaiting a time when mankind may turn to them once more. They once ruled this land but now all that is left is Boreas, mindless, raging, howling, not much more than the rush of the wind, unlike the old days when he and the Oreads would banquet in the Fortress of Winds or soar across the sky, shrieking in delight as Boreas, laughing, wafted them gently over the clouds.
Much of the plateau itself was once rich, terraced mountain farmland, now it is little more than wind blown tundra. Cyclopes living in their mountain-side cave lairs, would climb up to the peaks and hurl boulders at each other for sport, or drop enormous rocks on unwary travellers below to crush them for their great cauldrons. Tenderised human flesh and crunchy bone stew was the height of cuisine as far as a Cyclops was concerned. Now only a few cyclopes are left, scattered across the peaks, eking out a tired, lonely existence.Many mountain peaks were used as eyries or nests inhabited by Harpies and Hippogriffs. They struggled against each other for control of these peaks for thousands of years, a bitter war of hatred and blood. But now, only a few Harpies and Hippogriffs remain, there is plenty of space to share, their glorious kingdoms of the sky reduced to abandoned nests, shattered rocks and broken, cliff-top pillars.
In ages past, minotaurs ruled in their subterranean cities dug into the mountains, emerging only to raid the steppes that made up the high sierra of Boreas. There dwelt several tribes of Amazons, warrior women who bred magnificent horses, riding across the steppe tundra, warring with the minotaurs, and tending to their nomadic herds, moving around from tent city to tent city. They would meet for great Conclaves at their temples on holy days.Harpies and hippogriffs, giants and cyclopes were always trying to steal away their cattle, the Amazons always trying to prevent it. It was a vibrant land of warring tribes and creatures. But now the Amazonian temples lie in ruins, their hill-top forts abandoned to ruin, their great yurts no longer pitched ‘neath starry skies. Their horses wander in small herds, searching for what little roots and grasses are to be found in the frozen earth, and their cattle have long since been hunted to extinction. A handful of Amazon women linger on, trying to preserve their old ways. The tunnels and subterranean cities collapse untended, as the number of minotaurs that dwell below can be counted on the fingers of a single hand.How can Vulcan restore this magnificent land to its former glory? He cannot do it alone, he needs the help of the mortals, those once feeble humans who have mastered reason and logic, created technologies inconceivable to the minds of the Gods, save Vulcan himself. To the ancient gods,, mankind’s craft is like a new kind of magic that has empowered them in ways the old Gods never imagined possible. Only the mortals can rejuvenate the white capped mountains, the crumbling hill top forts, the Fortress of Winds and the underground cities. Only they can awake the Oreads to rule again, only they can restore the creatures of Boreas to greatness.
The Underworld was once ruled over by Vulcan’s uncle, Hades, but he sleeps in his immortal tomb. What is to be done with it now? Who will refurbish its sepulchral halls, sweep away the corpse dust that coat its tenebrous terraces, and reawaken the dead that once walked its cheerless cloisters? Who else but the mortals of earth, those same souls who have turned their backs on Olympus and the old Gods, who have found new gods to worship, virtual gods of silicon science. But what choice does Vulcan have? He must sell all to mankind, for only they can rebuild hell itself.
And what is to be found in Hades?
Bone chilling winds sweep across desolate plains, carrying the despairing moans of lost souls to every corner of the realm of the dead. Swamps fester in the pale nacreous glow that rises up from the decaying earth, tombs litter the landscape like broken teeth, shadows walk the land, muttering in the darknes
It is home to the Spirits of the Dead and….. other things.
There are also bloated swamps, full of Mangrave trees, and the drowned dead. Flies feast on sunken corpses, twisted beasts feed on the fetid fruits of that land, and gigantic snakes feed upon them in turn, dominating the interiors. Some swamps, left untended for so long, are choked with slime. Swamp spiders spin their webs out of the glutinous putrefying slime, making their webs particularly sticky and difficult to get out of.The rivers of Hades, the Acheron and the Styx, flow like arteries of black blood, across the land. In places, bayous have formed where the rivers widen. Black Bayous. Riverside dens and watery graves line the dark, oleaginous lakes, punts and flat bottomed boats ply the waters, manned by the souls of those drowned at seas.Some say Hydras live in the Bayous, their many heads arguing amongst themselves over the spoils of harvested souls, and the fruits of putrefaction and decay.Away from the rivers of hell, lie the Plains of Howling Darkness, home to lost souls, wandering in the miasmic shadows, who wail and groan, shambling aimlessly, lamenting their fate in the pale, decaying light, hence the name.
Ashes fall like rain.
Mysterious sink holes, ash-filled wells and rune-written trapdoors in the ground lead to subterranean crypts and caverns where vampire Lamias lurk, ready to burst forth and drain the souls of the unwary.Elsewhere, crumbling towers rise up out of the plains like broken teeth. Lost souls are drawn to them, climbing up the stairwells to emit their cries of wailing despair across the land, filling all who come there with a fearful melancholy. Other towers have been turned into the nests of the Strix, a blood-drinking bat-like bird with razor sharp beaks of bronze.At the centre of hell lies the Necropolis, the City of the Dead, the capital of Hades. At its centre a single, tomb-smothered hill, rises up over the city like a gravestone. Upon its peak is the now empty Palace of the Dead, where Hades once ruled. Round and about its foothills, tomb complexes spread outward like the suburbs of a living city. Statues of the long dead seem to stalk its streets like thieves in the night, their deeds in life long forgotten.In its glory, the river Acheron flowed through the city, like some kind of sepulchral Venice of the dead. Funereal Barges of Silver and Ebony floated along the canals of dark water, manned by shades and souls.
Can the Royal Necropolis be restored to its former glory? Can the plains and swamps of hades be renewed? Can Hades be rebuilt? It is up to mortal men and women to decide, to rebuild Hades in their own image, should they so decide.
Somewhere in the sands of the desert, three Sphinxes slumber in eternal repose, awaiting the next age of the gods, should it ever come. They are the Androsphinx, (human head, lion body), the Criosphinx (ram’s head, lion body) and the Heiracosphinx (hawk’s head, lion body). In that bygone age, mortals would seek out Sphinxes in search of wealth or knowledge. If they could answer the riddle that the Sphinx would set them, then the Sphinx would allow them a single question that had to be answered truthfully. If they failed the riddle, well then, the mortal’s life was forfeit and they were devoured on the spot. Now the three Sphinxes rest in small Pyramid Mausoleums, dreaming of riddles and tasty morsels of mortal flesh. Perhaps there dreams will soon be over, and they will once again stalk the hot sands of the desert.Once, the Great River rushed from the first Cataract of Oceanus, the father of rivers, in the far north, through the second Cataract of Tethys, down to the Shores of Psamathe at the southern edge of the desert, and into the sea. In that delta stood the mighty city of Iskandria. Here the Myrmidons lived, a warrior race armoured like ants, who fought for Achilles in the Trojan wars. Iskandria teemed with life, commerce, arts, and crafts. Ships plied the Great River, its banks were home to farms and fisheries, vineyards and breweries for the making of fine wines and barley beer. Irrigation canals ran from the Great River into the deserts, creating farmlands and oases to feed the Myrmidons. The land was blessed by the gods, and filled with abundant life, fed by the Great River.
But now the gods have departed to their divine divans, to sleep the ages away. Where the waters cascaded down in raging torrents at the Cataract of Oceanus, now there is only a trickle that evaporates into empty air before it can reach the parched and dry riverbeds of the once Great River. Where once a river flowed, there is nothing but a long, winding ditch that cuts through the desert, slowly filling up with wind blown sand. The canals that branched out to either side, once swollen with waters of life, are choked with dust and rocks, and dry, white bones.
The second Cataract of Tethys half way through the Great River’s journey to the sea, was used to divert waters into the irrigation canals. Huge water wheels were set up to capture the power of the raging torrents., all with the blessings of Tethys, a goddess, the mother of rivers, springs and streams, but she has long gone to her rest. Now the waterwheels lie baking in the hot sun, grime and dirt clogging their cogs, rust eats away at their metal brackets, their wooden spokes as dry and brittle as bleached bone.Iskandria, the city at the Shores of Psamathe (goddess of the beach), once a thriving metropolis crumbles ‘neath the sun’s hammer. A handful of Myrmidons scratch out a living from the dusty fields, living amidst the cracked houses and shattered streets like the ghosts of once mighty warriors of legend.
Elsewhere, the desert has spread like a tsunami of sand. Lost cities and sunken forts are buried beneath tons of desert dust, waiting to be rediscovered, filled with ancient wonders and long lost treasures. Rolling dunes march across mile upon mile of sun-stifled desert.Dragons have crept back into the wilds, untamed, unchallenged, to take up residence amidst the pillared temples and cities of old. Even the Valley of the Kings where the ancient Myrmidon lords were buried is lost to time, the desert and dragons.
And where dragons roam so do the Spartae – when a dragon’s tooth falls to earth, up springs a skeletal hoplite with spear and shield. Over the years, many dragon’s teeth have fallen. These Spartae have formed themselves into regiments of undead hoplites, appointing their own lieutenants and commanders, taking over the forts that the Myrmidons once built to control these lands. Now the Spartae range up and down the desert in search of blood or battling amongst themselves for supremacy.And as if that were not enough, out in the Western edges of the desert, in a part of the desert now called ‘The Land from which No-one Returns’ there dwell cockatrices, whose touch is poison and who’s breath is death. Yet their blood is said to cure all ills, so it is that desperate men and women will sometimes seek them out.
The Garden of the Gods of Olympus. Once they walked its sylvan paths, sipping Ambrosia, plucking the Golden Apples of Immortality, drinking the wines of Bacchus, and filling the arboreal groves with their laughter. Hera plotted vengeance against her husband, Zeus in dusky glades, Aphrodite seduced many a mortal, even a God or two, in its sweet smelling bowers, lovers embraced in candle-lit forested walkways. Ares, Lord of War rested here after bloody battle and Ceres sowed her seeds of plenty in its lush farmland. Satyrs and Centaurs gambolled in the sunlit groves, druids and sprites tended to the trees and flowers. Even mortals, those chosen of the Gods, attended the revels. Everywhere life blossomed with joyous abandon.
But Pan plays his pipes no more, Diana hunts not in the deep forests-green, dryads and nymphs dance no longer in dappled moonlit glades to the music of the spheres.Silence reigns over the weed infested garden walkways. Ancient trees, long untended, clog the forest trails, roots rise up from the ground to topple the statues, fountains and sundials, cracking open the conservatories and summer houses. The babbling brooks and streams have long since dried up, nothing sleeps in their beds now but dessicated earth and bleached bones. Its bathing pools and lily gilded ponds are filled with rot and decay. The bowers and arbours are overgrown with the thick, fibrous vines that once yielded up the grapes that Bacchus used to make his celestial wines that were drunk with joyous abandon in every nook and corner. Now they twist and turn, choking the life out of the land.
In its wilder regions, the Sons of Lycaon wander the deep forests, wolves by night and men by day. These werewolves feed on the unwary and the lost. It is said that King Lycaon himself, father of wolves, still lives somewhere, in the deepest, darkest dens of the forest.
Elsewhere, Arcadia is not entirely abandoned. Faerie folk can still be found in the weed choked gardens, sprites too, though their magic is fading. A druid or two can still be seen tending to half-forgotten, woodland shrines, perhaps a wanderer may catch a glimpse of a centaurs’ hind quarters as it flees into the safety of the deep forest or the mournful sigh of a lonely dryad may still be heard in its green glades, but mostly, Arcadia sleeps.Chiron, greatest of the Centaurs, tutor of Hercules and Achilles, and the very god of medicine himself, Asklepios, once walked Arcadia’s leafy trails, and galloped across its verdant fields. But where is he now? Does he slumber somewhere in an abandoned stable, lost and forgotten? Can mortal men free him from his long sleep of oblivion and restore him to greatness? Only time will tell.
The Gods may sleep but Vulcan will not. For what is to be done? It is now the Age of Man, so it must be the mortals, feeble though they may be, pitiful even, to whom the task must fall… Though it breaks immortal hearts, Arcadia must be given to those who would restore it to its glorious, arboreal splendour.