6:28 PM

Spirit of the Wind

Ecology of the Southern Basin

While the ky-ya weren't aggressive, only a fool would attack one. Copyright BenWooten and Wizards of the Coast.
The climate of the Southern Basin is abnormal for that of a savannah in the area. The humidity and heat levels are more akin to an equatorial region than someplace hundreds of miles away. The humidity is kept in by the mountains, which is also why you can find what may, with the nurturing of the acitan, eventually turn into a rainforest next to the mountains, and scrubby semidesert in the center. But there’s a lot of savannah in between; the radius of the Southern Basins (which, I might add, is pretty much perfectly circular) makes it about the size of the Northern Prairie ecoregion.

The heat is due to the fact that the mantle is very close to the surface in the Southern Basin. Uncomfortably close, in fact. The Southern Basin has normal lakes, but they also have quite a few lava lakes that are remarkably stable, by which I mean they’ve been active for a few hundred thousand years. Due to the heat conductive properties of the rock in the area, the heat of the mantle rises up to the savannah and heats it. There are forms of life in the Southern Basin that resemble giant worms and live off heat, or rather temperature differentials (they have one end at the surface and the other end a few hundred feet down).

The lava lakes are, rather ironically, one of the most pristine areas in the Southern Basin, quite possibly because nothing the acitan made and accidentally released was capable of being immersed in liquid rock for more than a few seconds. The lakes and the islands of rock in them are home to lava cats (pretty much the same as the Nigerian lava cats, which I created, from the Wanderer’s Library), a few ash cat settlements, and various varieties of ‘fish’ that mostly live off extremophile bacteria species. While the lakes are, for the most part, isolated from the Southern Basin, the ash cats of the lakes are known to make extremely sharp weapons out of the armor of lava cats, and sometimes will trade them.

Along the mountain peaks are huge clouds of atmospheric plankton, stirred up by the constant winds. Aside from them, nothing else can live in the region, and their predators have been exterminated by a now-extinct parasite. The acitan must prevent the plankton from spreading into the rest of the Southern Basin or risk them consuming the plant matter of the area, and so have set up magical barriers. A side effect of the magical barriers is that the mountain peaks are shrouded in a constant lightning storm; lightning several hundred times a minute per square kilometer. The acitan are grateful for these storms; whenever someone tries to invade them they usually think they can get through the storms, which they invariably cannot without turning most of their invading force into a crisp.

Dragons, I might add, are fairly common in the Southern Basin. By far the most common are brass dragons (which look like they do in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, not as they do in Pathfinder), but are also present. For decades there were no dragons in the Southern Basin, with the same circumstances surrounding the Great Breach being responsible for them leaving the Basin, but over the past few years they’ve been returning. The acitan take this as a very good sign. The dragons were veritable fountains of knowledge and were highly respected--even if they had no interest in biotechnology.

Silvanshee are a species of outsider that came to the area long, long ago. Long enough ago that there’s no telling where they came from. Their civilization is near the acitan one, by which I mean that it’s a rare acitan settlement that doesn’t have a population of silvanshee as well. Interestingly, acitan and silvanshee are interfertile; with the overall phenotype of the offspring being determined by the mother. However, a crossbreed born of an acitan mother will have a natural affinity for sorcery, and a crossbreed born of a silvanshee mother will have the same instinctual knowledge of biology that characterized the acitan. These traits aren’t inheritable, though. There are, however, traits that crossbreeds have that are inheritable: for a silvanshee mother, large adult size of the offspring, acitan-like coat patterns, green or amber eyes, and only semiretractable claws; for an acitan mother, black coat, violet eyes, and fully retractable claws. Silvanshee-acitan relations aren’t particularly rare; both species are pretty indiscriminate in their liasons.

The rivers (many of which are bioluminescent at night) of the Southern Basin are entirely contained within it. They bubble up from springs in the ground, travel a ways, and then terminate in lakes. The water is extremely clear, with the bottom of the rivers being limestone and creatures like corals trapping silt and digesting the organic matter in it. Most of the organisms in the rivers are evolutionarily leftovers from a period when the Southern Basin wasn’t cut off, but a relatively recent product is the snark, which resembles nothing so much as a water snake with two scales modified into long fins like that of a blue shark; and of course the native land crabs have been endlessly modified to fill the gap left by the rodents, even if they do a lousy job during drought years.

One might note that despite the fact that the Basin has been evolutionarily isolated and is for the most part populated with wildlife and displaying a fossil record consistant with an evolutionarily history close to identical to that of Africa’s, there are such creatures as kangaroos. This is due to the occasional teleportation accident. Such things only happen rarely, but sometimes enough of a species will be teleported that they’ll establish a breeding population, if one without a very healthy range of genotypes.

-- Citrakayah

Written 2012