Working for the Baron
Hongdao Xuanya (Island of the Red Cliffs)
Hongdao Xuanya (Island of Red Cliffs)
Hongdao Xuanya or The Island of Red Cliffs is a tropical island of volcanic origin in the Muon archipelago. The island is approximately 46 kilometres wide and 220 kilometres long.
The island was originally charted by Muon explorers before the beginning of the Dragon Wars, the island takes its name from the reddish tinge of volcanic rock and the high cliffs the encircle the island.
Before the dragon wars, the a number of Muon settlers set up a small outpost on the northern coast, harvesting timber, the native flora, obsidian, and stone from the island’s mountain ranges which has pyromantic properties. During this time, the island was charted and the vast labyrinthine cave system that lies underneath was discovered. When word of this discovery spread, a number of dwarf clans came to island and built a small colony in the mountains near the opening of the cave system and set to work mapping them, constructing mines, and building a holdfast.
When the Dragon Wars broke out, the Muon settlement was one of the first targets of the draconic armies. The settlers fought valiantly, but were overrun quickly and exterminated. The dwarven colonies fared little better, but managed to survive by going underground, collapsing most of the access tunnels, and fortifying their holdfasts.
After wiping out the Muon settlement, the draconic armies moved on in their campaigns, leaving behind only a small force of dragonkin to maintain the siege of the dwarven strongholds. These dragonkin were led by a great red dragon who soon grew bored of the siege. Taking note of the pyromantic properties of the native rock, the dragon conducted a series of experiments on the native iguanas infusing them with pyromantic magic and mutating them. These experiments produced the first Red Lizardfolk. While not the consummate soldiers like the Dragonkin, these creatures were strong and possessed of a savage cunning.
Eventually, after many years, the dwarves surrendered, offering their fealty and riches to the dragon in exchange for their lives. The dragon accepted and folded the dwarves into his forces. Claiming their halls and their treasure.
The dragon made the island his base of operations for the rest of the war, making the dwarven halls his home and recruiting lizardfolk for his armies. Given the island’s remote location, it was one of the last territories to fall to the elves. When they invaded, the lizardfolk, dragonkin, and dwarves put up a fierce resistance, but they were no match for the mightly elven armies. Beaten on the field of battle, the lizardfolk scattered into the dense jungles and went into hiding, making hit-and-run attacks on the occupying elves. The dwarves retreated from their halls even deeper into the cave system under the island, and the red dragon was slain by the elves – falling into the open caldera of the largest volcano on the island, his death reawakening it and causing a massive eruption.
After the dragon’s fall, the elves built a military outpost and watchtower on the southern edge of the island to guard against future attacks, but as the years went on, it was eventually abandoned as the threat of draconic resurgence seemed minimal, and the constant guerrilla attacks by the lizardfolk were taking their toll.
In modern times, the island remains isolated. There were several attempts by the Muon Empire to re-establish their lost colony, but they were all foiled by the native lizardfolk. Due to the remote location, the Empire has been reluctant to send an armada large enough to secure the entire island and drive out the lizardfolk. Rumours of the vast wealth of the dragon’s undiscovered hoard continue to tempt enterprising adventurers who brave the perils of the island and the depths below to try and find and recover the lost treasure. So far, none of these expeditions have been successful, and even fewer have returned. This has done little to dissuade explorers, however, and a small, heavily fortified trading compound was recently established on the northern coastline.
Despite being the first to scout and inhabit the island, the current Muon settlers are recent arrivals. After being driven out during the dragon wars, the Muon did not return until many years after the elves left. When they did, they thought to re-establish the old settlements and pick up where they left off, but it was not to be. The lizardfolk attacked the first settlement in force, killing many and capturing the rest to sacrifice to their volcano god. The Muon attempted to return several times, occasionally in force, but they were always driven off by the lizardfolk. For many years, no attempts were made – the idea though folly. Eventually though, a Muon general set up a small, extremely well-fortified outpost that the lizardfolk could not breach. Since they lack siege engines, they cannot breach the redstone walls and the Muon have started to resettle the island from their fortress.
Currently, the only Muon on the island are part of the garrison. There is a small civilian waystation and a few traders of jungle exotica, but otherwise the garrison is entirely military in nature.
Redstone Keep is the center of the Muon presence on the island and it is built upon the ruins of the first Muon settlement. The foundation of its mighty walls date to the original fortifications built during the dragon wars. The current captain of the citadel is Zhang Tao. He has close to 300 soldiers at his command, and approximately 100 support personnel.
The Red Lizardfolk are the island’s most numerous inhabitants. Created by a great red dragon during the dragon wars, when the elves invaded the island and killed the dragon they were unable to track the lizardfolk into their jungle homes. The lizardfolk mounted an unceasing guerrilla war against the elves. The elves retaliated, but were never able to root out the insurgents. Eventually, with the end of the dragon wars, the elves decided to cut their losses and went home.
The Red Lizardfolk are primitive repitilian humanoids, created by a red dragon from the native iguana. They are violent and savage, fighting amongst themselves when not warring against outsiders, but do possess a certain amount of cunning. The lizardfolk are expert hunters and warriors, they have learned how to use the jungle and their innate proficiency with fire magic to defeat their foes.
The lizardfolk are organized into many different tribes, and will fight amongst each other over hunting grounds, dinosaur herds, or even just for glory. Each tribe is led by the chieftain – usually the biggest and strongest lizardfolk of the tribe, but occasionally a powerful shaman or cunning hunter. The tribe is semi-nomadic. They do not have permanent settlements, but each tribe has a designated hunting ground and will defend it zealously. The shamans of the tribe are the most powerful pyromancers of the tribe. They are also the priests to the lizardfolk offering sacrifices to the Volcano God. The lizardfolk believe that their abilities with fire magic are gifts from the Volcano God, so those with more talent with pyromancy are favoured by their god.
The lizardfolk aren’t very technologically advanced, but they are cunning and crafty – they make spears, clubs, javelins and daggers out of jungle wood and obsidian; shields out of dinosaur hide and bones; bows and arrows tipped with obsidian; and armour out of dinosaur leather. They also harvest poison from jungle spiders and snakes and coat their weapons with it. They are also capable of fashioning saddles for dinosaurs and riding them into battle as a form of cavalry.
The lizardfolk religion is monotheistic – they revere the Great Volcano God – He Who Sleeps Within The Fire. They revere the great dragon that created them as the avatar and speaker of the volcano for when it was slain, the volcano erupted and fumed with rage. It was the volcano god who created the world and them, and if not pleased, He will return the world to the fire from whence it came. The lizardfolk sacrifice their captives to their god to appease it. When the volcano rumbles and smokes, the lizardfolk war amongst themselves to show their prowess to the volcano god. Those who fall are sacrificed to appease the god and pacify it.
Though they war amongst themselves, whenever outsiders land on the island, the lizardfolk unite to vanquish the invaders.
Until very recently, it was thought that the dwarves who had fought for the dragons had all died out, but some of the few adventurers to return report that there is a thriving society of dark dwarves living underground. Changed by their time under the earth, they no longer see well in light, have ashen, grey skin, and snow-white hair. Not much is known about theses dwarves, only that they exist, they inhabit the darkest caverns of the caves under the island and that they are extremely hostile.
The Island of the Red Cliffs is located near the edge of the explored world in the far southwest of the Muon archipelago. The island is a volcanic island, with a large active volcano in the north and a small range of mountains and inactive volacanoes in the center of the island. This range is surrounded by lush and dense jungle which blankets most of the island. Only near the coast does it thin, but there are few beaches. In most places, the island juts sharply out of the ocean, a sheer cliff dropping into the sea. There are no rivers on the island and the climate is always hot and humid, year-round. The island is surrounded by a large reef and sharp rocks which makes approach by ship treacherous and there are only a few well-charted safe paths.
The Great Volcano
The most notable feature of the island; the Great Volcano was once inactive, like the others on the island. However, when the red dragon was slain, its corpse fell into the caldera and the magical energy released by its death reactivated the volcano and triggered a massive eruption. The volcano has not erupted since then, but tremors are common and ash plumes happen with regularity. The volcano also marks the spot where the subterranean labyrinth may be accessed and is the rumored location of the legendary dragon’s hoard.
Redstone Keep is a recent fortification that stands where original Muon settlement was. Built on top of a well-preserved section of wall from the dragon wars – Redstone Keep is the one bastion of civilization on the island. Manned by a small contingent of Muon soldiers, Redstone Keep offers services to adventurers and passing traders. The commander of the fortress is likely to welcome any aid from adventurers or mercenaries in fighting the lizardfolk as their raids are frequent and merciless.
At the very southern tip of the island lies a once-mighty elven watchtower. Constructed by the elves after the dragon wars to keep watch for any signs of draconic activity, the watchtower was abandoned after years of lizardfolk attacks and no sign of the dragons. Due to the cliffs and reefs, no naval approach to the south of the island is possible, and one must trek through the jungles from the north to access the tower. The Muon Empire has been trying to fund an expedition to the watchtower to try and recover elven artifacts and establish it as a fortress.
Flora and Fauna
Perhaps the island’s most notably fauna, like the lizardfolk, the dinosaurs are a legacy of the draconic occupation. Brought to the island by the Dragonkin legions as beasts of burden and war, when the draconic armies were defeated, the dinosaurs remained and thrived in their new home. They have since dominated the local ecosystem, feeding off of the native lizards, plants, and insects. In addition to feral dinosaurs, they are herded by the lizardfolk and used as mounts and beasts of burden.
Firebirds are a species of parrot endemic to the island. Renowed as a rare and exotic pet, they are known for their beautiful red and orange plumage and unique ability to breathe fire. A live firebird can fetch quite a price on the open market as they are prized by nobles and collectors the world over.