5 hours ago
Thursday, December 16, 2010
In the West of the New World is one of the geographical wonder. Nearly 400 years ago, when Eadlerdish explorers were first making there way across the western desert, they came to a huge, steep-sided canyon they described in their writings as “a great abyss.” The Natives told them it was impassable, and the abode of monsters. Those early explorers only went far enough to determine the apparent truth of the Natives’ words, and turned back.
It would be 200 years before any Ealderdishman found a way across, and thus proved it was not impassable. The “abode of monsters” part remains true to this day.
The feature is today known as the Grand Chasm, or the Colossal Canyon--and sometimes, the Monster Canyon. It's around 500 miles long, up to 20 miles wide, and reaches a depth of nearly a mile and a half. The Red River runs through its depths, cutting deeper into rock in a time-frame of eons, though some thaumaturgists believe the scale of the chasm indicates something more than natural forces were involved in its making.
The canyon has tributaries--”lost valleys” which boast flora and fauna long extinct in other parts of the world. Procurers for circuses and zoos sometimes enter these regions to bring out beasts for public show, as do alchemists in search of exotic botanical materials. Scientists point to the unlikelihood of viable animal populations surviving in such small places and suggest that vast cave complexes must underlie the entire region, providing a wider habitat.
Other places in the canyon attract adventurers and other treasure-seekers. There are ruins and entrances to caves, some of them previously inhabited or even perhaps made by some human hands. Tombs of the Ancients or some allied culture promise treasure, and ancient magics.
Any treasure to be found there is never easy to acquire. Getting into the canyon is difficult--the easiest way is to come downriver--though there are precarious trails that wind downward from the rim, if you can find a guide. Guides come at a price, and may not be completely trustworthy.
Once a way is found, things only get more dangerous. Wayward flying reptiles from the lost valleys pluck travellers from boats or trails. Cavern crawlers, cave fishers, and other strange creatures (the results of ancient magical experimentation gone awry?) crawl forth from hidden recesses of the chasm when they sense a meal. Then, there are primitive human tribes--some too debased to be worthy of the name--descended from Natives or lost expeditions often fallen to superstitious worship of the canyon's monstrous inhabitants, and sometimes cannibalism.
Still, adventure and treasure calls, and there are always those brave or greedy enough to make the descent.
(My article on the lost cities of the Grand Canyon in the world we know would be instructive and inspirational here as well.)