The Mountains of Ourea

Banner of Ourea

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.