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The Crimson Savannah
The Crimson Savannah by Kordeth

Oronis, I know what and who you are. I taste your aspirations like the sweat dripping from your brow. I see where you are going if you continue on your course. You don’t even see it.

I share these secrets with none but you as my part of our agreement. My messenger presents you here with the first of my gifts of knowledge. Each of these cards holds an eyewitness account of travel in distant lands, describing the dangers the peoples of the Tablelands face should they stray too far from their relatively safe city-states. You can place this catalog of “The Dangers of Travel” cards within your Wisdom of the Drylanders manual.

I know my messenger Dijja desires your company and wisdom on her own account, and offers herself to be your servant at my bidding. Take her services and her wisdom as another gift from me. In return for all of this, I demand what you provided to Wheelock the Poisoner: Immortality. Wheelock dwells in his pit without aging.

Now that I have delivered my messenger into your hands, you have a choice. Should you kill Dijja, or otherwise reject my gift and send her back to me, then we shall proceed to war. Try your best to find me while I foil and expose your spies and spill your secrets to the sorcerer kings and queens, the Mind Lords, and what is left of The Order.

Should you accept my gifts and commence our gift war, I swear to give up all attempts to find out what you are really doing in Orohna Valley. Take your secrets to the Gray. I know neither you nor even your minions dream about it - that is power I can respect. Yet I lost a brother, a sister’s daughter, and a dearer-than-life friend whilst trying to probe the mysteries of Orohna Valley. Pay me their blood price – I want more life! – or I will avenge their blood upon you and yours.


The Crimson Savannah

I first scouted the Floorlands seeking sources and samples for Wheelock the Poisoner. Wheelock found it impossible to grow any of the plants or to sustain any of the substance-producing life forms from the Floorlands of the Crimson Savannah in his dry-houses & wet houses of the Ivory Triangle. Using much inducement and one dire threat, Wheelock engaged me for years to travel to the Crimson Savannah and gather what could not be cultivated in the Tablelands despite all of the art of all of his many contacts. I continued in this capacity until the end of the Psionic Event dramatically closed my business in the Crimson Savannah.

The Floorlands contain parasites, diseases, and poisons which can kill, cripple, or drive you mad – if you are lucky. If unlucky, you may bring home something (or someone) that kills everyone that you know. The Floorlands’ greatest danger to our minds, bodies, and everyone that we know – to the very survival of the Tablelands - comes not from the climate, parasites, flora, fauna, diseases, or even the lack of resources, but from the Floorlands’ primary inhabitants – the Kreen.

Do not think of kreen as “fauna.” Make no mistake – to Floorlands kreen, we are the fauna. Their word for us – dra – connotes “thinking meat” amongst the kreen: prey are not people, even if the prey are smarter than the people. Prior to the Psionic Event, Floorlands kreen regarded the few local dra as tasty curiosities. I found kreen tolerated my presence if my kreen companion introduced me as his slave. Sometimes I would prick my shoulder & let my “master” sample my blood, like one might milk livestock. Other Floorlands kreen even occasionally tried to capture or eat me, if they did not sufficiently fear or respect my kreen “master”.

Over the years, my team gathered herbs and minerals, and traded with kreen packs, the bvanen of the Swamp, and the sentient amphibians of Kano Swamp. We learned to carry our own food, to give ourselves time to acclimate to the low-lands, to eat sparingly of the creatures and herbs taken from the waters. We suffered many casualties at first, but Wheelock developed remedies for the parasites, diseases, poisons, and unique conditions suffered by Tablelanders (even kreen!) who venture into the Floorlands.

Notwithstanding Wheelock’s salves and remedies, conditions within the Floorlands were the least hospitable that I have experienced, with the Crimson Savannah only somewhat safer than the swamp at the Cliff’s base. Our mounts died no matter what we did. We had to carry in our own food and water at first. Wheelock gave us preparations to purify the water, but it’s impossible to stop your kank from licking dew from the saw-grass, or to get any mount to mask its face or breathing holes. The saw-grass seed tufts look like the plants you Kurnans call “weasel-tail.” The kreen call them thok-dul - earth-life’s dancing egg. The saw-grass tore at our clothing and laid flat from our passage, leaving a clear path wherever we went. Our latrines attracted clouds of invisible flies that could be heard for miles.

During the months of the Psionic Event, the kreen – including my kreen guides – went into a frenzy. Trade with the kreen packs became impossible and attacks increased. We only survived because their organization was poor and because packmates sometimes fought each other out of frustration. Seeing the Kreen threat abated, one of my partners flouted Wheelock’s advice, established a trading post in the Floorlands between the Savannah and the reptile-inhabited marshes.

Since the Psionic Event, at least one settled kreen group in the Crimson Savannah is said to have begun to mark its border with humanoid skulls engraved with story-telling kreen syllables. The Floorlands packs have apparently ceased seeing dra merely as tasty prey temporarily in possession of rich untapped hunting grounds, now seeing us as dangerous hostiles – a threat to their survival.

With the Psionic Event at an end, my party – experienced in handling ordinary Floorlands terrors – fell to waves of kreen attacks. The kreen gave us no time to rest or to recover - one pack after another would attack and then move on. Those of us that survived used a psionically empowered stone to travel to what we thought was a safe place – the trading post - but parasites and diseases had doomed the settlement even before the kreen recovered. Our priest retrieved the grisly story from the dead. As Wheelock had predicted, tragedy befell the traders - parasites had devoured their animal’s bodies from the inside and an insect-borne disease caused a madness that drove the traders to violence against each other.

Our only recourse was to leave the Floorlands, returning to the Cliffs on foot. My skill and Wheelock’s balms allowed our survivors to travel the grass unmarked, and we built tents over our latrines and covered the holes when we left to avoid the tell-tale clouds, but the kreen caught us before we reached the Cliffs. When their attacks had reduced us to half our number, the kreen offered surrender terms.

Terms they did not honor. The settled kreen we were sold to were polite at first, feeding us while asking us questions. When we ran out of answers, they began to feed on us, while asking the questions that we had not answered, one bite at a time. I watched my arms and legs reduced to bone over a few days. They used some yellow mixture to staunch the blood flow while not reducing the pain.

You might wonder how I survived this torture. I did not survive; I do not know what skill or magics recovered me from the Gray, and as to who revived me, I will not say.

Dangers in Game Terms

  • Psionic solitaire worms lay eggs in the edible fruit of many scrub bushes. The fruit’s seeds and the eggs pass safely through the stomach and the eggs hatch in the intestines where the larval worms fight each other, causing gastric distress & loud gurgling noises for approximately 3 days. When only a few survivors remain, they cause the host to feel energized and driven to cover as much distance as possible. This increases the host’s walking speed by 33% (usually an additional 10 feet per round) for 3 days and increases their endurance (giving them advantage on Constitution saves for traveling long hours). After another 3 days, the host loses the ability to sleep and begins to panic if they cannot keep moving. At this point, the immature worms stop bolstering the host’s endurance and allow the host to suffer the full effects of the induced stress (both mental and physical); hosts rarely survive for more than 3 days like this. When the host parishes, a new bush sprouts from the host’s remains. The adult solitaire worms colonize the bush and lay eggs within its fruit, perpetuating the cycle.
  • Swarms of small, biting insects hover around watering holes and other stagnant pools of water, eager for tender, unprotected flesh. The insects’ droning and biting are often infuriating, but the disease they carry can be deadly. The disease usually begins to manifest in 5 to 10 days, causing headaches, agitation, and increased thirst. Five days after the initial symptoms appear, victims start to show a severe aversion to light and fire, and become prone to random outbursts of violence. For those few who survive that long, at 15 to 20 days after infection, victims develop an unquenchable thirst and have been known to drink themselves to death (an extremely rare cause of death on Athas).
  • The change in elevation from the Hinterlands at the top of the Jagged Cliffs to the lowlands of the Swamp at the base of the Cliffs can be difficult on those not acclimated to the change. After descending the Jagged Cliffs down to within 100 miles of their base, heavy exertion - including fighting and running - for more rounds than one’s Constitution score leads to hyperventilation.
  • While it’s not something usually addressed, in the Crimson Savannah, if the PCs don’t specifically state that they build a covered latrine or otherwise cover their waste after relieving themselves, the chances of having an encounter double in that camp or while in the general area, as small predators and parasites will be drawn to the smell and target the PCs.