The territories known today as
the "Venlaken Enclave" are located in the south-central continent of
Nybelmar, on the western side of the
Anpagan peninsula. The Kingdom of
Anis-Anpagan once colonized them,
but now they are the place of residence for the so-called
Daedhirian Mages - former
humans that have become undead in their quest
for immortality. Anis-Anpagan still
claims that the Venlaken Enclave is a part of their realm, but the truth is
that since the Daedhirians
settled in the area, the region became more or less autonomous. And because few
people dare to venture there, and also because
Daedhirians rarely showed
any disposition of leaving these "Cursed Lands", no one really ever questioned
this rather strange claim of the
Description. There are three distinct regions in the Venlaken Enclave, arranged on a north-south axis. To the south, the Zylos River delta dominates a lowlands landscape with misty marshes covered by thick vegetation. Gradually this type of landscape makes way to a grassy plain with scattered willow groves, having the fortress of Venlaken in the west and the huge ancient ruins in the east. The northernmost part of the Enclave is mainly a parched wasteland extending far beyond the Daran River into the Nybelmarian region named "The Bucket" by the passing caravan leaders. Because of this wasteland, the northern borders of the Enclave were ever blurry, a serious problem for the caravans traveling to or from Tyr Faerath, as it is well known that many of those that lose their way through "The Bucket" and venture too far south, may never be seen or heard of again.
Image description. The southern marshes of the Venlaken Enclave, also known as the "Tears of Askanis". Picture drawn by Seeker.
of Mirrors - the core of the Enclave
"And all the willows, balded of hidden chantings, danced on a sea of mirrors. And Inami danced with them. Bowed was his head as he walked upon the mirror sea and rage poured down his eyes. He dreamt of broken mirrors but then he dreamt of him, broken as the mirrors."
-- Excerpt from the third fragment of "Daedhir, the Book of All Fears"
"The Sea of Mirrors" is the name given by Daedhirians to the Enclave's region where they are actually settled. Provided by Asbavaer to the Anpagans expedition sent in the Enclave during the Dark Plague, the name seemed to have been inspired by the fact that this region is dotted with hundreds of ponds and small pools surrounded by willow groves. To the west, on the shores of the Repose Bay, lays the fortress-city of Venlaken - the only major settlement of the Enclave. To the east huge stone ruins covering a vast area stand as a proof that once a great, but now completely forgotten, civilization existed in this place. Small settlements of Servants and a few spires may also be found scattered in this "Sea of Mirrors".
- The Venlaken Fortress
If this might be called a "city" than it probably is the ugliest city in the world. Dark, gray and silent, the Venlaken Fortress is composed by countless of stone buildings crowded together without any open or green spaces at all. Often the buildings lay on top of each other so that in most of the "city" streets the sunrays never reach the ground. Traveling through this city is an experience that no one lived to share until now, so little is known about the daily life of Venlaken. The Anpagans passed once by this city though, and they described it from afar as an ever-smoking labyrinth that seems to have no solution at all.
Yet from the stories of
Asbavaer we can conclude
that Venlaken is not a dead city, as a rather large contingent of Servants
lives there, housed in the lower buildings. Their
Daedhirian Lords inhabit
the upper buildings, the most influential ones having one or more districts
just for themselves and their abominable experimentations. One such influential
Lord was Asdamon, who was
known to have five or six districts right in the center of Venlaken. He donated
four of them to the Daedhirian
"community" in order to build the infamous "Daedhirian
Vats", a structure that is still in use up to this day. Originally the Vats
were used to revive the decaying bodies of these twisted mages by replacing
their various body parts with similar ones taken from the Servants. This
practice raised many disputes and even armed conflicts in the Enclave and was
abandoned after the Dark Plague, when
Asdamon's most fierce
eventually prevailed. The healing capabilities of this invention though were
not to be overlooked and so the Vats are still used by
Daedhirians, though only
to obtain a certain regeneration of their bodies through a painfully long
process. And even today, this building towers over Venlaken, with its dark
stained windowless walls, a bulky structure always releasing a thick black
smoke towards the Repose Bay. It is said that the restless souls of the
murdered Servants are still haunting within its walls, crippled and miserable
ghosts whose screams and moans are weaved into the constant buzz of the Vats'
Once, before the Year of Darkness, the city of Venlaken was a thriving Anpagan port, built by Anpagans to use it as a last point of resupply on the ancient sea route to the distant cities of Zhun. The famous works and deeds of Armand DaRan changed all of that though. By discovering a method to kill and even control the great Sea Wyrms of the Zyloth Sea, he basically doomed the Venlaken city as there was no need anymore for this costly and lengthy route to Zhun (following the southern Nybelmarian shores) to which Venlaken served as a last outpost. Also the same Armand DaRan is believed to be at the origin of the Daedhirian heresy, as the Daedhirians themselves claim that their most treasured text (the one that actually caused the heresy), "Daedhir, the Book of All Fears" was written by him. In any case, after the Year of Darkness and after the establishing of the so-called Enclave, the Venlaken port became indeed off-limits to any Anpagan ship. And to make the matters even worse, the once welcoming waters of the Repose Bay became a real trap for any ships sailing too close or driven there by storms. Apparently, some time after the Year of Darkness, a series of large tremors have changed the bottom of the sea transforming the Repose Bay into a place rigged with sharp rocks rising out of the waters and irregular shallow portions. Many captains brave enough to venture their ships in the sight of the Repose Bay are still reporting that the place looks like a veritable graveyard for ships. Yet despite all these warnings, the stories about the huge amount of treasure sunken in those treacherous waters in the past centuries are still tempting foolish adventurers to their inevitable doom.
- The Ruins of Venlaken
The western plains of the Sea of Mirrors slowly make room to the east for a landscape dominated by soft hills rising higher and higher towards the proximity of the Bothon Mountains. Literally hundreds of small ponds surrounded by willow groves are scattered among these hills. But what is really a strange sight in these parts is the presence of a series of huge stone ruins extending all over the region. They were clearly built by an ancient civilization, which is now long gone and forgotten; yet the ruins themselves stand as a proof for the greatness of this civilization.
The ruins look like they have
once been part of a single large city, a city like no other ever before or
after, a city so vast that even the most imaginative of scholars cannot picture
the way it could have looked like in its days of glory. Immense colonnades rise
up from the ground, massive walls are sinuating between the hills, gigantic
stone platforms and foundations and as well as an extensive underground network
of tunnels make up for one of the greatest mysteries of
Nybelmar. Who could have built such a city, where they are now and what
cataclysmic manner could have brought their doom are questions that will
probably never find an answer. These ruins are now veiled in the dead silence
of the Sea of Mirrors.
Most of the Servants of the Enclave are settled in this region, various small villages being scattered among the willow groves. Some of the Daedhirian Lords attempted to rebuild a few of the ruined structures and set up their quarters there, but nothing that they have built seems to match the majesty of this once great ancient city. They are also using the underground tunnels for their twisted magics, so these are known to swarm with all sorts of undead abominations (that presumably were once Servants). Actually, from what Asbavaer was saying, the Anpagan scholars concluded that there is something special about this region, as the Daedhirian magic seems to be more successful here than in any other place of the Enclave. This matter though is quite a controversial one, as it does not explain the fact that the large majority of Daedhirian Lords is still camped in Venlaken. So why would they avoid a place where their magic ways are known to thrive? There were also other speculations made about this eastern part of the Sea of Mirrors.
Mostly after the events of the
Dark Plague some of the Ansaran mages have started to take the popular legends
from the Anpagan province of Lun more seriously, about how a certain gateway to
the Netherworld might exist in that place. Such
a connection to a most dark world would certainly explain a lot of the
mysteries surrounding the
Daedhirian heresy. These mages have gone even that far as to identify this
supposed gateway in the northernmost ancient stone structure of the Sea of
Mirrors. Standing alone at the edge of the wastelands named "Oblivion's Call",
there is indeed such a structure resembling a gate, but if it is a gate then it
is a gate to nowhere from nowhere. The mages though claim that this structure
is able to make the connection to the Netherworld
only when certain conditions are fulfilled and they quote the
Book of All Fears itself to prove
this claim (and the fifth fragment seems to refer indeed to this structure,
but, as with all the other Daedhir
fragments, is too cryptic to allow a certain theory to be produced).
The official position of the Anpagan Mage Guild though, is that there are no such things as Netherworld or gateways to other planes of existence and any discussion on the matter is pointless until someone really produces a viable proof for that. Instead they are tempted to accept as an explanation the fact that there is a possibility that the strange phenomenon encountered on the southern seas and named by the Sarvonians "Ethereal Void" could present a certain feature, causing it to extend at a particular time up to the western Anpagan peninsula, where the Enclave is located. But apart from the fact that this hypothesis seems to be more coherent with the general Guild's worldview, there are no viable proofs to support it either.
Oblivion's Call - the northern wastelands ("The Bucket")
"People tell that Inami comes from the wastelands. And they tell that once in a while he stops for a willow's shadow to watch the faeries dance. And they dance around Inami. Mad wicked faeries."
-- Excerpt from the third fragment of "Daedhir, the Book of All Fears"
On all the Nybelmarian maps the northern border of the Enclave is considered to be the Daran River. This river springs from the Bothon Mountains being mainly fed by the rains; therefore it sometimes disappears in the dry years. However it is the last source of water in the parched wasteland that the Daedhirians have named "Oblivion's Call".
With the Bothon Mountains in
the east, the Zharkanions Mountains in the northeast and the Benderrath
Mountains in the north, few rains, if any, reach this region. The caravan
leaders that pass through the northern side (in the shadow of the Benderrath
Mountains) to or from Tyr Faerath, have
suggestively named these wastelands "The Bucket" - as this is exactly how the
traveler would feel in these parts, like being inside a hot and dry bucket.
Because of this wasteland and because of the fact that the Daran River is often
dried out, the northern border of the Enclave is ever blurry. Not once there
were caravans finding themselves lost in "The Bucket" because of some sudden
dust storms and in many cases this "ever blurry" border of the Enclave proved
to be fatal for them.
The "Oblivion's Call" or "The Bucket", is perhaps the most unsafe place in all the Enclave and not only because of the extreme desert conditions but also because the place is intensely roamed by the "Lost Ones" - various apparitions, often malicious, that are believed to be the direct or indirect result of the Daedhirian magic. Though there are no black unicorns or Bala'urs to terrify the travelers, dream tempters, mad faeries (though only around the Daran River), packs of haunts (of all variations) and hosts of mindless walking dead (though no one really can explain their presence in this desert) are enough to make up for their absence. But not every apparition here is malicious and we can mention in this respect the mysterious void sails. Rarely, if a caravan is lucky enough, they would catch the sight of such a magnificent graceful creature floating above the grounds towards the horizon. The Anpagans believe that this version of void sails that can be encountered here is one and the same with the strange character ever present in the Daedhirian fragments, called Inami. From these fragments then, they concluded that the Daedhirians seem to have a special relation with these void sails, but on the possible nature of such a relation nothing is known.
Image description. The lonely willow and the silence - a landscape typical for the area around the Daran River at the Venlaken Enclave's northern border. Drawn by Bard Judith.
Also, there is another interesting feature of this wasteland, a feature revealed by the Daedhirian Lord Asbavaer to the Anpagans during the Dark Plague. The Bucket seems to be a place causing a slow but inevitable process of forgetfulness - that's why the Daedhirians are naming it "Oblivion's Call". The reasons or origins of such a feature not even Asbavaer knew, but in the accounts of the Anpagan expedition every journal seems to mention that the process was absolutely real. The good thing was the process proved to be reversible as soon as the region was left. Actually Asbavaer went even further and claimed that Oblivion's Call is not just a special place, but an apparition in itself. The most tempting and mischievous of all apparitions, because it seems to have an unknown way of luring the travelers into it. The caravans are not losing their path because of the dust storms, said Asbavaer, but because they fall into this apparition's temptation: getting too close they are mesmerized by the Oblivion's Call and so they are sinking deeper and deeper into its deadly embrace.
Location. The Venlaken Enclave is located in south-central Nybelmar, on the western side of the Anpagan peninsula. To the south and west the terrible and unpredictable Zyloth Sea is washing at its shores. To the southeast, the Zylos River stands as the border to Anis-Anpagan and to the east the high Bothon Mountains constitute the natural border to the Empire of Korweyn. The Daran River should mark in principle the northern end of the Enclave, but in reality the Oblivion's Call wastelands and the temporary nature of the river make it an ever-blurry border.
People. Besides the
Anpagan popular myths about "The
Land of the Dead", there are only two sources used for understanding these
people: the Anpagan Republican Wars (which led to the creation of the Enclave)
and the Dark Plague (the only time when
Anpagan troops crossed the Enclave's borders). All the accounts regarding
the Enclave are kept in the custody of the High Mages of the Ansaran Island,
always being a reason for endless arguments between the
Anis-Anpagan's Mage Guild and the
Guild of Historians.
There aren't only mages among the Venlaken inhabitants; some noble families and lots of peasantry also took the path of exile in the Enclave. Supposedly they become in time either disciples of Daedhirians either subjects to their experimentations. Also some Anpagan governments preferred to send their unwanted in Venlaken. However, there is one thing that each of the Anpagans knows for sure: there is no return path once the Enclave's border is passed.
With the discovery of the Daedhirian scrolls, the Ansaran Mages' interest for the Enclave was revived and thus many tried again to explain their way of life. By studying these theories we were able to draw a short classification of the various types of Daedhirians:
While more or less all the inhabitants of the Enclave are called "Daedhirians", there is one category which stands out - the "followers" (or "descendants"; the Mages could never reach an agreement on this issue) of the original group of Mages who initiated this system of practices based on the esoterical knowledge contained in "Daedhir, The Book of All Fears". None of these Daedhirians are truly "alive" anymore but "undead". They seem to have reached a certain "excellency" in preserving their own spiritual essence after death and their works are focused on finding ways of keeping this essence tied on this plane of existence as much as possible. However it are the Anpagans who believe that even if undead, a Daedhirian can be destroyed if these bonds (created to keep the spiritual essence in this world) are severed. There are though reports of ghostly apparitions, in the Enclave area, that seem to have an active leading role, which could only mean that some Daedhirians have managed to free their essence from the necessity of having a body. Yet these are only speculations. What is important is that any inhabitant of the Enclave aspires to reach this state of existence.
This seems to be a mixed category of undead beings but also humans. However it is hard to tell if they are not actually all undead, but because their appearance is closer to the human one (a very sick human though) the Ansaran Mages assumed that they are not all undead. They are the ones fulfilling their apprenticeship in the service of their masters: the Daedhirian Mages. These Disciples also seem to be the mundane rulers in the Enclave, taking care of the common building sites, maintenance, mining operations or any other such activities. Only few Disciples manage to become Daedhirian Mages, yet the reasons behind this fact are unknown to this day.
Again a mixed category, but this time being summed mainly by humans. These are the supposed descendants of the peasantry that took the path of exile, following their nobles, when the Enclave was formed. Some scholars claim that the actual Disciples are recruited from their ranks, but observing the Servants' absolute obedience taken to almost a total lack of any personal will, we might want to keep some reserves regarding this theory. All the humans Servants seem to share a very demanding religious cult dedicated to a strange god combining death and fertility. The undead that were seen working alongside the human Servants are in less numbers, supposedly being either the unfortunate results of Daedhirian experimentations either Disciples who failed in their attempt to become Mages. These undead (with an appearance ranging from fresh-like corpses to skeletal bodies) lack any form of will whatsoever and must be directly controlled by a Disciple, otherwise they would just act chaotically. Their seemingly limited "lifespan" and their constant disintegration makes them a less preferred workforce for the Daedhirian Mages and their Disciples.
Former Disciples or Servants and perhaps even former Daedhirian Mages, they are the victims of the Enclave. Moving corpses crawling mindlessly on the ground, ghosts haunting the southern marshes, wraiths howling in anger, dream tempters feeding on the life force of the living, they are the marginals, rejected by the Enclave's order. The Ansaran Mages have often launched in endless discussions about these Lost Ones. Their sentient ability was often doubted; also there is no agreement on the issue of their origins. They could be the direct result of Daedhirian practices, but they also could originate in the fact that the very fabric of life was dangerously twisted by these practices - thus being a chaotic element for Daedhirians themselves. There are also some timid voices claiming that it's not the Daedhirians causing this but the place itself, argumenting that this is also the reason for which no Daedhirian seems to ever want to leave the Enclave.
Coat of Arms/Sign.
There is no coat of arms common for the entire Enclave. If the
Daedhirians are using any,
most probable they vary greatly with each Lord. As for one example, the minions
of Asbavaer were seen
during the Dark Plague, carrying insignia representing a white winged figure, of
a vaguely human shape, on a black or dark gray
background. Some scholars claimed that the respective insignia was actually a
representation of a dream tempter
but, given the special nature of the
dream tempters, that can only be a speculation.
Climate. A hot and wet climate reigns in the southern parts of the Enclave, while the northern parts are hot and dry. The Sea of Mirrors lies in between these two extremes.
Mythology. The region, which is now known as the Venlaken Enclave, was not always like this. From the gigantic stone ruins present there we can conclude that once a majestic realm existed there. Also, before the Daedhirians, the Anpagans have colonized it, the city of Venlaken itself being actually founded by them. The Daedhirian mages emerged only a few decades before the Year of Darkness as a heretical movement within the Anpagan Mage Guild. They were claiming that they were actually only following the principles and truths taken from the last writing of Armand DaRan (considered to be the greatest Anpagan magician of all times), called "Daedhir, the Book of All Fears - the teachings of a wise shadow to the mage Armand DaRan". This writing supposedly resulted from a magical inspiration that Armand had while he was exiled in the east. Some interpreters went even that far as to pretend that the respective "wise shadow" shows a connection with the Murmillions' bizarre Arkhaeon Guild, yet there is little need to say that such an interpretation is not at all popular in any Anpagan scholarly environment. In fact the official position of the Mage Guild up to this day is that "Daedhir" is just an apocryphal writing. The truth is that "Daedhir" was somehow lost during the Republican Wars and only several fragments were found so far, not enough to support any of these theories. And again, regardless of the scholarly disputes, the Daedhirians are continuing to practice their foul magic in the Enclave, while the place itself seems to have changed beyond any recognition since they settled there.
Flora. The willow trees are the mark of Enclave, as their presence seems to be ubiquitous. Apart from them various other tropical species abound mostly in the southern parts. An interesting mention though would be the bone trees that, despite their plant-like appearance, are actually an apparition. These bone trees seem to be encountered mostly in the northern parts of the Sea of Mirrors and in the southern parts of Oblivion's Call.
Fauna. Corbies, vultures, wolves, jackals, and feral dogs, generally any animal that has no problems scavenging abound in the Enclave. An interesting mention would be the black unicorn living in the southern marshes - a beast or an apparition; the scholars never reached an agreement on this issue. Apart from the usual beasts, the Enclave is known to be haunted by perhaps the most variated line of apparitions in all Caelereth. The Daedhirians are calling them by the term "Lost Ones", as not even they seem to know which one is a direct result of their foul magic and which is just an abnormality.
Resources. It is not known what the Daedhirians use or need and the Enclave never trades anything. Presumably iron ore and granite deposits can be found in the Bothon Mountains at the eastern border of the Enclave.
Myth/Lore. To a certain extent everything is a myth about the Enclave. After the Year of Darkness the Anpagan commoners started to call this region "The Cursed Lands" or "The Land of the Dead". The Daedhirian presence there was interpreted as a sign that the Enclave is actually the border to a world beyond, where the souls of the dead are going to rest - a Netherworld. This kind of view was later adopted even by some of the scholars who were claiming that they know exactly where such a connection may exist in the Enclave. The increasing success of the Anpagans' Mage Guild atheistic views however have caused this view to slowly fade away even from the minds of the common people. Even if there is such a world apparently not part of our own, they say, it surely cannot be a place where the souls of the dead are going to rest. This Netherworld, if real, should be a part of nature just like our own world is, as we perceive it. Then the fact that the Daedhirian magics are possible to such an extent in the Enclave could be explained as a natural anomaly that occurs where such different and maybe overlapping worlds seem to meet. Yet these are regarded only as simple speculations and not once the scholars dealing with these theories became the laughing stock of the Guild.
Beyond these disputes however, there is a fact that seems to be standing out as a truth: the Daedhirians are certainly showing an intimate connection with the place in which they settled, since none of them ever showed the slightest desire to move somewhere else. But then again, this apparent connection says nothing about a possible magical concurrence that would keep them there even against their will. More than that, seemingly just to infirm all these, we are dealing recently with an increasing number of stories told by the sailors of the Zyloth Sea, about ghost ships sailing far out of the Repose Bay to prey on the passing Anpagan trade galleys. Obviously, the Mage Guild is still trying to minimize the impact of such stories and dismiss them as products of an inflamed imagination. The truth, as always seems to be veiled in every piece of knowledge about the Enclave, yet we have to admit that it is still tempting the imagination of Anpagans and any other humans that come into contact with them.
Information provided by Smith in Exile