Preliminary note: This
overview will present a broad outlook of the area through a geographic,
economic and, where appropriate, cultural standpoint. The entry will then
narrow its focus to each of the main settlements structuring the region and
give an account of their important features.
The Dragon’s Back is a region named after a prominent mountain stock in northern Zhun in southwestern Nybelmar, comprised primarily of the four villages of Ktsarmashik, Serekeye, Katkara & Kechit and their capital city, Karakan. The rural communities lining the land between them are assembled under the leadership of Karakan. Karakan, often referred to as the "Dragon City", is a Krean military outpost half a furlay north of the “Silver Serpent” (the Great Kimb River) The region owes its peculiar name to the arc the “Forefingers of the Earth” (the mountain ranges just north of the Dragon City) form, vaguely resembling the curving back of a great Krean Forest Dragon.
To understand the Dragon’s Back region, one must first be acquainted with the individual spirit of Karakan and its major villages: Ktsarmashik, Serekeye, Katkara & Kechit. Then he must try to identify how each contributes to the region as a whole.
Introduction. We will provide an atmospheric excerpt from Emperor Dearan’s famous work, "A Zhunite Sunset", to familiarize you with the general feel of the region:
your cart leaves the Pageant of Blue and White, it jolts carelessly off
the mosaic street tiles one last time – perhaps brandishing a final
farewell to peaceful Evasnos. A furlay away - after a day’s leisurely ride
from the City of Gods – sunflowers already dot the countryside. Smile to
each curtsying golden-blade! Smile to the
wind’s welcome, sighing softly through fields awaiting harvest!
Wildflowers in their prime meet your passage in their brightest wears; the
liberated horse neighs his proud
greeting: Welcome to Zhun, welcome to the state of the
sun! Far away on each hand stretch rich
pastures and patches of
maroon soil made ready for the peasants’ corn. There is a remnant
still of last year’s golden clusters of beehive ricks rising at regular
intervals behind strips of geranium.
you travel northeast from Serekeye, the flat, dry terrain gives way to the
steep slopes leading up the Kechit highlands. Serekeye’s soil absorbs more and
more of the northerly rain and develops into the rich earth of the Mint Plains.
The tiny underground stream watering the terracotta village dies in the Potter’s Shelter, a mossy crevice on the southern perimeter of the Kechit Slopes. The slopes themselves are rather barren as there are no underground flows to dampen the soil. Nothing more than a few isolated bushes grow on the dry land of the Kechit Slopes. The slopes are named after the infamous goats of Kechit, which appear to be the only creatures (perhaps other than greedy Zhunite merchants) able to scale the rise without exhaustion.
Slowly the Kechit Spring emerges among the pebbles of Stone Valley and rushes south through the Mint Plains, nourishing men and plant alike. It then takes a mild westward twist; the Mint Stream, as it is now called, leisurely runs through Kechit, the village of goatherds and mintmaids. Upon the turbulent waters where Mint Stream issues from the wild Kechit Spring the famous Goat Bridge that gave birth to so many folkloric tales rests.
A few leagues west of Kechit is another overpass under which Mint Stream flows into one of the many tributaries of the Great Kimb. The Sunset Bridge, although larger in size and grander in architecture, never enjoyed the incredible fame of Goat Bridge.
If one takes the road northwest from Kechit instead of the well-travelled pathway to the Mint Plains, one will soon meet the green, rolling hills trailing to Ktsarmashik. In springtime a carpet of colourful wildflowers cover these hills, engulfing the land in their beauty and scent. The area around Ktsarmashik has a rich network of underground streams. Because these springs have to travel between layers after layers of rocks to surface, their waters often have decidedly mineral characteristics.
North of Ktsarmashik marks the beginning of Dragon’s Back ranges, from which many of the building materials used in the region are excavated. The rocks of these mountains are so rich in ores (especially iron, copper and gold) that even small, independent Zhunite towns can rival the gigantic Imperial Mining Facilities scattered elsewhere around the Forefingers in the amount and quality of produce. Katkara, for instance, despite its small size is one of the principal mining sites in northern Zhun. Nothing other than that it is located within the Dragon’s Back passes is known about Katkara - due to the oaths of silence taken before the Black Altar.
The land loses its fertility as one travels further northwest. So significant is this lessening of fecundity that only about a third of the area surrounding Karakan can support crops. Even those arable sites are radically infertile compared to the rest of the region. Thus, wheat is Karakan’s main harvest; and even that is delivered in reduced quantities. Most of the outpost’s food stock is imported (or to be more precise, collected as tribute) from the villages under its protection. Limestone and silty soil are characteristics of this part of Dragon’s Back. Karakan, like most of northern Zhun, is also very rich in mineral deposits: marble, copper, iron and coal.
Key Locations. The key locations of the Dragon's Back region can be summarized in detail as follows:
One of the nine Krean outposts on the Plains of Zhun, Karakan lies half a furlay north of the Great Kimb River (also known as the Silver Serpent, see Karakan: Mythology) in the middle of a vast valley. The bowl shaped basin is protected by mountain ranges from the north and south and majestic fortifications, possibly the grandest in Zhun, further enclosing the outpost. The city acts as the regional capital of Dragon’s Back and in return for military protection against the other Zhunite city-states it collects tribute from the four main settlements (Katkara, Ktsarmashik, Ketchit, Serekeye) and the various rural communities dotting the land in between.
The Great Kimb River surges south with incredible vigour and pace, a ship that can withstand the battering can travel the strong currents out of Karakan and reach the coastal city of Kimbar (where the river rushes into the Sea of Zyloth) in less than a week. On the contrary, due to the violent southward surge, it is virtually impossible for a vessel to make the same journey upriver, eliminating all possibilities of a naval siege of the outpost. Local lore has it that the great waterfall to the north of the Karakan Valley was once the source of the Great Kimb and that its water surged across the basin where the Dragon City now rests to follow the course of the great river all the way south through the Zhunite Plains.
So some say the Krean felt that the presence of a spirited river spoiled the excellent conditions of the valley for building stronghold (which probably is only an element of myth given how good this tribe is at city-planning) and others say they feared the great river would frequently flood its banks, laying terrible waste to their city. And yet there are some who, with a raucous laugh, argue that by the time the explorers finally made it to Karakan, the Krean were fed up with the Search for the Silver Serpent, that they simply banished the river from sight not to lay eyes on its silvery waters again…. Whichever of these legends might be true, we do not know. Today the great cataract falls down to a cavernous hollow, where the waters of countless streams wandering the mountains merge; and from that vast underground chamber the Kimb River issues forth like the great, silver cobra the Ancient Krean once roamed the Plains for.
The Dragon City, named after its patron deity, the Zhunite God of War, Sérás, is home to his legendary Serian Battle Priests, renowned for their military expertise and pyromancy. Karakan also houses the Dragon Lord’s (Seras) main temple in Zhun, where the invaluable Firegem of the Dragon City is safeguarded.
Two colossal statues of the Dragon Lord, each forty-eight peds high, flank the stately Southern Gate, the only entrance in and out of the outpost. The Statues of Sérás and the two strongholds, known as the Rivaling Towers, situated high upon the mountain ranges that watch over the city and northern Zhunite trade are historic sites anyone travelling to the Plains must visit.
A very great quantity of mines, foundries, sculpture studios and armouries are to be found in Seras’ city. The Great Market of Karakan attracts merchants from all over the continent and it is here that the Scarlet Drake, the largest armoury in Zhun, has its headquarters. The Great Market is the centre of weapons trade in the Plains and roughly a century after Emperor Dearan’s disappearance in ca. 1700 b.S., quickly regained its notorious reputation as the heart of shady businesses and illegal trade of Western Nybelmar.
As any visitor to this mining centre is sworn before the Black Altar to never speak of anything they might have seen within its walls, information concerning Katkara is at best sketchy; certainly not enough to provide a decent description. The Compendium, however, has acquired a collection of myths pertaining to this strange settlement through a generous donation of the Asaen family, from which our scholars hope to bring together a rough description of the place and its inhabitants. (This entry, expected to be published in a near future, will attempt to dispel at least some of the thick clouds of mystery surrounding Katkara. Donations to help bring about this noble scholarly pursuit can be made through Lord Coren FrozenZephyr.)
Just to the west of the Mint Plains, south of the mines of Katkara lies the small, time-honoured village of Ktsarmashík. This is a typical northern Zhunite village roughly a league southeast of Karakan famous for its folkloric traditions and vine covered houses. The village sits perched atop one of the green, gently sloping hills of the vicinity.
Several wells can be found dotting intersections here and there in the vine-covered village, from which the locals haul buckets of the cool, refreshing sparkling water of the underground streams meandering several peds beneath the stone streets.
Items of interest when visiting the village include the provincial scarlet-rose wine, distinctive Zhunite cuisine, the Fountain of the Four Monks and the Vine Refuge, a Lillivear institute focusing on a highly specialized branch of growth magic.
The town’s main income comes from its scarlet rose wine, famous throughout the richer coastal cities for its delicate rosy scent and strong flavour. Ktsarmshik’s economy also flourishes from exporting bottles of ‘flower water’ and its signature poison, made by mixing an essence extracted from vine-leaves with the secretion of the mulberry caterpillar. The latter is produced only in small quantities.
The stone road trailing east out of Ktsarmashik later forks into two paths; one leads east to Kechit and the other south to Serekeye. The road leaving the village from the west follows the flat meadow to mighty Karakan’s doorstep. A tributary known as Wine Spring parts from the Great Kimb to flow north towards Ktsarmashik where it curves eastward and courses away to the mountains, avoiding Mint Stream. Rows after rows of grapevines spread northwest, north, and northeast like a trident from Ktsarmshík. Several vineyards dot the open land between these ranks.
Travel past the magnificent Stone Valley, where thousands of round, black stones of different sizes lie across the charming cataracts, the lively Kechit Spring and inspiring mint meadows on an afternoon journey through the Dragon’s Back countryside. Soon the wooden houses of Kechit, located in a picturesque setting by the Mint Stream appear like a pleasant reverie in the distance. The Krath Emperor Dearan Asaen was so enchanted by the affectionate feel of the surroundings that he came here to live for three years in the Dragon’s Back region. This picturesque village is known for its dairy products and headstrong inhabitants, as willful and impulsive as the Kechit goats the settlement attained its name from...
This terracotta village marks the southern border of the region. Famous for the pottery it produces and the vibrant colours of the women’s clothes, the mud-brick houses of Serekeye welcome you like so many plump cats, stretching their backs and basking in the midday heat. The village draws most of its water from the underground stream sauntering the clay-rich earth of the surrounding area. The settlement’s proximity to the Kimb River and its more southerly air supplement the efforts of the local potters.
Location. Dragon’s Back is a small region in northern Zhun, on the skirts of the great Forefingers of the Earth (in south-western Nybelmar). It extends from the headquarters of Karakan, located within a bowl shaped valley north of where the Silver Serpent runs parallel to mountains, all the way to the Stone Valley - encompassing the beautiful Mint Plains.
People. The people of
the Dragon’s Back region are typical northern
Zhunites: Not as garrulous –
thankfully – as your average Zhunite,
but cheerful around the hearth and talkative nonetheless. But what marks the
inhabitants of northern Zhun are the jaws – as well as characters – set with the
no-nonsense determination that comes with working the
earth. If one had to choose one word to
depict the people of Dragon’s Back, however, it would have to be “folkloric” – a
queer one perhaps, but accurate nonetheless.
Ktsarmashik is known throughout the Zhunite Plains for its vineyards & wineries. Serekeye has its potters and associated terracotta industries. Kechit is the town of husbandry: its goatherds rivalling their stock in stubbornness, its shepherds as sleepy as the sheep they herd and the farmers, as ubiquitous a landmark of the countryside as the ever-present olive tree. If ever you hear of a band of heroes born in some obscure village in the mountains upon whose shoulders the burden of the world now rests, know that they must be from Kechit… For where else could produce that obstinate determination, that rustic ignorance, that simple (simplistic?) nobility of character so favoured by that fine old yarn legends are spun from?
And Katkara – well… which man could claim intimacy with the affairs of Katkara?
Coat of Arms/Sign. The regional coat of arms adopts the crest of Karakan, a scarlet dragon’s head on a golden background, but with four scarlet veins radiating from the disk around the dragon’s head to the four corners. The central dragon head represents Karakan, the de facto ruler of the region, and each of the four diagonal arms of the “X” one of its constituent villages.
Each village slightly modifies the regional banner displayed within its boundaries, adding to the emblem a hallmark from the settlement. So in Ktsarmashik the dragon’s head is festooned with green vines, whilst in Kechit it bears a goatee and has a goat’s horns, in Katkara the dragon keeps the Black Altar in its roaring mouth and in Serekeye it balances a gorgeous amphora on its head.
Climate. Compared to Santharia, the Dragon’s Back region, although at a slightly more northern latitude than the hallmark Zhunite settlements, has a fairly warm climate. The summer, being the dry season, yields many dry hot days. Occasionally the heat of the plains will be cooled by seasonal breezes known as ‘meltemíá’. Thus, the inhabitants of Dragon’s Back regularly enjoy pleasantly cool evenings.
Winter in these mountainous areas can be quite cold – though next to the bitter Sarvonian winter even Karakanite weather is fairly mild. Extended and heavy snowfall is quite infrequent. As the wettest season, soaking downpours are to be expected in winter – although it must be said the distinctive rainy season is between the months of the Dead Tree and Awakening Earth.
As with the rest of Zhunite plains, the exceptional feature of the climate is the abundant sunshine. One must note, however, that during the scorching summertime the sun is not as welcome a face among the Zhunite fieldworkers as we northerly Santharians would expect. But for the cooing meltemia, the summer heat would become severely uncomfortable.
Flora. The closer one moves to the colossal mountains, one cannot help but notice the thick carpet of sahnrix pines and black oaks covering the landscape – especially in the north with a heavy redberry bush undergrowth. Roses, daisies, honeysuckles, jasmines and mimosas are among the area’s natural flowering flora and are extensively used in garden arrangements. Once again olive trees, as almost anywhere else in Zhun, dominate the scenery.
But the author’s favourite are the abundant bougainvilleas, cascading like a waterfall down the stone houses and enveloping the wrought ironwork with their brilliant colours.
Although wheat is the only grain that can be cultivated in sterile Karakan, the fecund earth of the surrounding countryside, in particular that sketch of land between Ketchit and Serekeye, supports a variety of grain crops. Supplementary produce by the surrounding villages include corn and other grains, cotton, figs, olives, oranges, peaches, tubberroots, sugar beets and tomatoes.
Fauna. The mountainous woods are home to a rich wildlife, among them boars, elver elks and moss bears. These dignified forests are the motherland of the black Zhunite eagle, soaring in majestic circles along the mountain ranges. Also, a fine assortment of sparrows – oft of interesting plumage – dwells in the low hills between the settlements.
As for that indispensable yet unpopular segment of the fauna, the insects nobody enjoys talking about, white and purple spiral butterflies, the golden seeán beetle, as well as an overabundance of industrious myrmex completes the painting.
Wives in Ktsarmashik frequently complain about a “porcupine issue” – but they talk of the creatures with such unexpected affection that one cannot help but wonder if they see the porcupines not as pests but almost as adolescent sons whose antics are to be put up with as quid pro quo of the amusement they provide the household…
Resources. As in many other historical examples, the presumption that geography shapes culture holds true for Dragon’s Back: For instance, Ktsarmashik and Katkara’s proximity to the mountains prompted the heavy use of stone in the towns’ architecture. Contrast this with Serekeye, where the availability of high quality mud is reflected in its mud-brick houses. On the other hand, being on the threshold of a small forest gave rise to wooden construction in Kechit. You may have observed that each of these four settlements was founded around local water supplies - whether they be streams or underground sources (note for instance the Wine Spring and mineral wells of Ktsarmashik).
Regional Mineral Overview. The Dragon’s Back Mountains are tremendously abounding in iron, copper and gold ore. The soil of the region is rich in limestone and silt. - Now let us briefly look at the natural resources available to each of the main settlements:
Northern Zhun is a very mountainous region unable to accommodate extensive farm grounds, and Karakan, a former Krean military outpost situated in a basin-shaped vale encircled by great mountains ranges, is no exception to this. The sandy soil around the town, infertile as it is, can only support wheat – and even that in small quantities. The town’s main grain stock is either imported or collected as tribute from its vassal villages. Limestone is characteristic of the soil of the valley floor.
The outpost’s water is supplied from the Great Kimb River running parallel to the town a quarter furlay south of the gates. Wood is harvested mainly from the thick patches of sahnrix pines and black oaks coating the slopes around the valley.
Karakan, like most of northern Zhun, is also very rich in mineral deposits. Beside the major marble and copper operations, small deposits of clay, nickel, coal, and chromate are also mined.
Judging from its hefty exports of gold ingots, gold along with several other ores (most notably iron) must be present in large quantities in the mountains around the mining centre. No further speculations can be made at this time.
The Wine Spring and a rather extensive network of underground streams provide Ktsarmshik its water. Stone for construction can be excavated from nearby mountain ranges. Wood is gathered from the low, rolling hills.
The village gets most of its water from the slow current of Mint Stream. To the southwest, between Kechit and Serekeye, lies the most fertile terrain in the region. The area operates as a neutral zone between the neighbouring towns, where farmers from either settlement live and work together to make ends meet and supply food to the rest of the local populace. Husbandry, however, provides Kechit’s main food source via the milk and cheese supplied from the goats and sheep herded on the cool plateaus of the Mint Plains. The small woodland to the north supplies most needed wood to the village.
As the name rather overtly indicates, the meadows are abundant in mint flora. Like a mantle of freshness adorned with seams of lavender, bushes of mint cover this beautiful plateau from end to end. It is abundant in the soil of these plains, that facilitates the profuse development of mint plants. The same mineral gives the waters of the Mint Stream and its many tributaries their antiseptic qualities and mild, breath-clearing aroma. The vast plain is used as a pasture for sheep and the famous Ketchit goats of the region as well as a natural floral garden.
The birth place of numerous springs and underground rivulets, Stone Valley is known for its round, smooth stones of blackish hue, ranging from pebbles to mule-sized boulders. Continuous exposure to the stones covering the valley floor gives the streams originating here their varying mineral characteristics.
Trade. The main exports
of the region are armour & weaponry (Karakan),
bronze and marble sculptures (Karakan),
various ores (Karakan & Katkara),
wine – but surprisingly not grapes - (Ktsarmashik), dairy products & wool
(Kechit and pottery (Serekeye). Like many northern settlements close to the
Dragon’s Back forests, a small supply of wood is also available for sale.
An assortment of vegetables & fruits, chief among them citrus fruits, are sometimes bought from the southern cities to add variety to their diet. Horses from the plains around Cyras are fiercely coveted but they have become a rarity during the past decade due to the intense demand from wealthier cities & the increasingly tense relationship between Karakan & Cyras…
Note however that due to the mountainous topography of northern Zhun long distance trade over land is extremely arduous and time consuming in this region. Downriver trade on the Great Kimb River & the truly majestic Dearanic Boulevards, an extensive system of paved roads built by the Emperor (then Overlord) Dearan to tie the fragmented Zhunite cities, had greatly improved the situation. Sadly, many of these once glorious highways have fallen into disrepair after the fall of the Krath Empire, neglected by the emergent city-states preoccupied by their paltry sieges & rivalry.
Karakan imports a sizeable number of luxury products relate to both their aesthetical and culinary senses - among them Evalaris jewellery, porcelain from Evasnos, painted ceramic vases from Serekeye & Cyras as well as specialty honeys & fine wines from Ktsarmashik and all over the Zhunite plains. Such a significant amount & variety of luxury import is surprising for a city infamous for its austere lifestyle and can perhaps best be rationalized as a hangover from their Krean times…
The city’s main source of income is its soldiers, rented to other cities’ defence (or ambitious sieges) from time to time for an exorbitant price. Minerals (limestone, salt, scarlet quartz crystals), ores (iron, marble), weaponry (especially spears, halberds) and armour (particularly metal breastplates) in addition to the town’s famous bronze and marble sculptures form the backbone of Kárákán’s economy. After the deforestation of around 2000 b.S., export of timber from the town was prohibited by the Council of Zhun.
Mythology. Around the 3500s b.S., the Twin Kingdom, following the recent prophecy of the famous Stone Caster Xhin’áktár, decided to expand their civilization into the mysterious plains of the east. The High Council of Grand Empire of Krath in the spring of the same year organized a massive expedition, the greatest as of then, to explore and - whenever possible - cultivate the feral hinterlands of Zhun. Finding - in spite of the prophecy - nothing more than fragmented communities of farmers, fishermen and nomads upon their arrival, the majority of the Krathrian search parties returned home thwarted. The Krean, being a much more patient than their Krathrian allies, marked their priestess’ words - especially the part that foretold the downfall of the League (which, rather unsurprisingly was not known to the rest of the Empire) – and carried on. It was not until they reached a small fishing community three weeks after their departure that they witnessed the first of the marvels forecasted: An endless blue expanse of ever curling land. The Krean explorers named their first settlement after their first encounter with Great Sea of Zyloth: Cusca (which translates in the Common Tongue as “Hills of Salt” or shortly “Salt Hill”).
Upon the seventy sixth day of their arrival in Cusca, Priestess Xhin had her next vision: “Seek the silver serpent through the seaside and pursue it to the stones of the Spirit”. Thus, two parties were assembled to find this mystical Silver Serpent. The parties departed on the 13th of the Month of the Changing Winds (known as the "Month of the Serpent’s Song" in the Empire of Krath) for what would later be called the "Search for the Silver Serpent".
The party that followed the coastline claimed to have found the “Silver Serpent” after two months: They had come to a valley just north of Krath’s northeasternmost forest where a stately river met the ocean. After following the river west, however, the party came to a fork: There the river split into two great arms.
The group that followed the branch that trailed back southwest to their homeland discovered loaded deposits of pure silver ore at place they named Kárát Sílhádhor (“Fangs of the Earth” in the High Speech), a great ragged range of mountains. They sent messengers to the allied lands to declare that their search for the Silver Serpent had ended. On the high mountain passes of Kárát Sílhádhor they built a colossal city consisting of seventeen citadels merged together via vast underground passages and great bridges. They named their imposing settlement after what guided them to the land’s treasure, Kátrá ílár Chághruh, “the Mountain’s Call”.
The troops that tracked the meandering torrent tailing to the northeast came across another mountain pass sited right in between two mountains of similar size and shape. They named these the "Twin Peaks", and the city they built perched there on the pass "Twofold" to remind them of their homeland, the Twin Kingdom. In no later than three months further expeditions from the city realized that their new city was located on a straight line diagonally northeast of Cusca. The men and women of Twofold spent the next thirty years methodically constructing highways leading from their city to Cusca, Kátrá ílár Chághruh, the Kingdom of Orcal and other established settlements around Zhun. Many scholars agree that Cusca remained the preeminent trade center of the century solely because of the raw and finished goods these ways brought from all over the southwestern continent. Only two centuries later would these routes be entitled the "Great Roads" by the Emperor of the time and patrolled every hour of the week by imperial pike men. As they were the first people to come in contact with the Kingdom of Orcal (which is built around an enormous serpentine river closely resembling a snake) and establish a Zhunite trade network (which gives the rough impression of a luminous serpent from the Twin Peaks), Twofolders claim to be the rightful offspring of the Search for Silver Serpent; thus identifying themselves as Ríhght Mát’hár (“The True Inheritors”). For centuries the men and women of Twofold were known as great traders and adventurers.
The second half of the main expedition that left Cusca in search of the Silver Serpent had the worst luck of all. On their journey north, they were caught up in a war of the two largest nomadic tribes of the Zhunite plains. But their ill-fate would not end here, as upon encountering trespassers the two tribes had allied to obliterate the Krean party. At the time in Cusca, after receiving no news from the Northern Pursuit the statesmen had arranged a funeral rite for “the great heroes that breathed their last breaths in search of a noble dream”. Ironically these remarks were not wholly off the mark, as a great number of the exploration had died escaping the war either from disease or exhaustion. The remaining few, however, reached the grandest city they had seen so far on Zhun after two year’s exodus. The locals had named the place “Kimbar” after the immense river that ran to the east of the city. “Kimb”, as this river was called, stood for the greatest and deadliest serpent found in the forests of Zhun. Interestingly enough, over the years the Krean have assimilated this word into the Common Tongue as “cobra”. [Author’s note: The fact that the entire plain of Zhun was covered with large patches of forests should be kept in mind when accounting for the perils of this expedition.]
The citizens of Kimbar were a very hospitable, polytheistic people. The rulers of the city saw to the needs of the search party and treated them as children of their own. After three weeks’ treatment, the Northern Pursuit was convinced that this river – which even the locals had named after their greatest snake – from whose rushing waters the sun’s rays reflected like silver arrows was indeed the Silver Serpent they had so desperately been seeking.
On the day of their departure the expedition was greeted by a celestially handsome young warrior that promised to guide them to the Promised Land if they would agree to build a fortress there in his name. The Oracle of Kimbar advised the Northern Pursuit that this man was the Dragon Lord Sérás, the fierce Zhunite God of War to whom they would be wise to relate well. The majority of the survivors was thrilled at this news, for the touch of this mysterious warrior – whether he be a god or not – stirred a great fervor in their hearts, a passion to strive, a bloodlust they had never felt before… One of the soldiers even described it as “a divine torch lit inside our veins”. All the same a group of priestesses, who also served as the leaders of the expedition, were not at all pleased at the arrival of this false deity. They had confronted the people claiming that should the Northern Pursuit follow this fallacious god, the High Goddesses would curse them for eternity. The young warrior that called himself Sérás only laughed at the mention of the High Goddess Ankriss, claiming to be Her second youngest son. Promising to prove his assertions once the party reached in the prophesied land, the Warlord, Sérás, settled the issue.
Thus, every morning at exactly six minutes past the seventh bell, Sérás would appear clad in full armour on a hill top, radiating like the sun itself to lead his followers up the Silver Serpent for thirteen hours straight. This is in fact why the official work and training hours in Kárákán is still thirteen bells.
On the thirteenth afternoon of sailing up the Silver Serpent, the Dragon Lord ordered his followers to build a great bonfire dedicated to their former deities, the Two High Goddesses, from the woods of their boats. Sérás averred that he could not become the patron deity of the Northern Pursuit or lead them to the Prophesied City unless they would end all their bonds with the past. The leading priestesses, of course, maintained that no Krean would bring their former rites to a halt unless he who claimed to be the Son of Ankriss performed a miracle connoting the consent of the two Goddesses. Hence, the Dragon Lord Sérás at dawn appeared with the High Goddesses on his side and taught the Krean the Prayer of Saviour. For thirteen days the three deities would appear side by side to guide the Northern Pursuit from the riverbed to the birth place of the Silver Serpent. There, at the source of the Great Kimb, the Warlord Sérás ordered his people to build a great fortress in tribute of their rescuer. Yet the priestesses would not yield; they called for the approval of their former deities before taking orders from the Dragon Lord. Crying to the heavens in anguish and melancholy Sérás summoned his mothers to “insert some sense into your priestesses’ brains!” Upon seeing the devastation of their second youngest son and the devout fidelity of their former clerics, the High Goddesses decided to expound their approval of Sérás patronage and reward the Kreans loyalty.
Lady Ankriss, the High Goddess of Earth, gestured and the treasures hidden deep below the lands rose to the surface. Even today the mines of Kárákán effortlessly yield the finest ores of the entire continent in profusion. Then the High Goddess Arléá, Patron of the Flowing Water, sang and the Great Kimb River roared and changed its course the other way around, so the armies of the Dragon Lord would always sail swiftly to triumph but no enemy of Kárákán would ever reach the city. Consequently, it is no wonder the Silver Serpent flows more rigorously than any river in western Nybelmar since then.
It is also alleged that Sérás chose – or would ever appoint – any women as his cleric after what the priestesses of the Northern Pursuit made him suffer through. Whether this is a mere local tall story or the scandalous truth itself, no one knows.
Hence, it is no wonder that the Search for the Silver Serpent ended in the lair of the greatest serpent to ever walk the face of Nybelmar, the Dragon Lord of the Zhunite plains himself…
 Although the ancients had known of mineral, sparkling water for an indeterminate time - and indeed have built numerous healing centres all over the Zhunite Plains where particularly salubrious springs were found – it was a young female goatherd (and one must admit: alchemist and innovator – that is amateur alchemist and innovator), one Eustha’Spheida of Evasnos, who first discerned and documented (albeit in her amateur technique) the correlation between the taste of a stream’s waters and the bed it traveled in as well as the characteristics of its source. Initially she noted for instance that brooks fed by the melting snow of mountains had a fresher, clearer taste where as watercourses which meandered in and out several rocky surfaces tended to have a bit more of a ‘tang’, to adopt her description, a somewhat bitter or saltier taste. She would travel all over Zhun, climbing ardous hills, traversing difficult passes, walking up this river and down this cliff to find more samples to experiment with, to observe how springs and streams formed, how rivulets differed from one another, how seemingly disparate watercourses and underground rivers influenced one another… This fascination with water and its characteristics became a lifelong pursuit, culminating in the writing of her classic text, "A Precious Gift: Water & Its Salutary Virtues". The originals of her journals are surprisingly detailed and accurate for someone with no formal education; a full account of discoveries has recently been published as in twelve tomes edited by the respected Cuscan scholar Thios Kaspios Euthalis. [Return]