The world of Skai’Roon does not know sun or moon, ocean or rain, starry skies or horizons. It is a world of mist and smoke, of floating earth and hidden dangers. Between a diffuse light far above, and a crushing darkness far below, float the aeroliths – massive chunks of land covered with all manner of plants, animals, people, towns, cities and kingdoms. Each aerolith is a world unto itself, cutting its own path through the unending mists of a world that hangs between pure light and utter darkness.
The peoples of Skai’Roon call the light in the sky Solus, the Radiant Mother, the Light Above. She is the goddess mother of all that lives, but she is also a force of chaos and change. There is no firm footing with Solus, for she is mercurial and fickle, ever changing her favor from one chosen to another, seemingly at random. Solus is light and fire, illuminating but also burning those who get too close. The Radiant Mother cycles through degrees of illumination, from a dim glow all the way up to a blinding radiance, giving many of the worlds below a procession of night and day. But this cycle can change without notice, with bright illumination lasting for days, or a night lasting for only a few hours – though such drastic shifts are thankfully uncommon.
Far below the deepest mist, and the blackest Smoke, lies Annihlous. He is the Dark Father, the Maw of Doom, the Black Gate, but most call him Oblivion. Nothing that passes beyond his veil ever comes back – at least not alive. The Black Smoke of Oblivion is the pulse of undeath, animating the dead as it seeps inside their lifeless husks. But Annihlous is a force for order as well, bringing the relentless stability and stillness of the dead to whatever it touches. The deep Smoke near the Great Maw is as black as night, calm as death – unmoving and unchanging.
In the mists between light and dark is the world of mortals: Skai’Roon. The mists high above are thin and light, and barely obscures vision at all. Those who live up in the high mists can sometimes see for miles off into the distance, even seeing other aeroliths or distant ships moving through the sky at times. The aeroliths here are full of grasslands and tall trees, but the constant radiance from above can be harsh, limiting the plants and animals to those of hearty stock. The aeroliths up this high run the risk of rising too far, crossing into the Silvermist and getting burned by the Radiant Mother’s sudden wrath. The elves long ago learned this lesson to their bitter regret, for rising too high caused the fall of two great houses, and was the end of the ancient Elven Triune. Now known as The Night of Falling Aeros, it is a history lesson no elf is allowed to forget.
Below the high mists is a region most call The Shine, for its mists glow with the radiance of Solus, illuminating everything with a silvery light. Though the mists are thin, they are still dense enough to limit distant sight. The aeroliths in The Shine are overflowing with vegetation and wildlife, some supporting lush jungles while others have endless fields of grasses and flowers interrupted only by dense forests near their small lakes and streams. Many call The Shine their home, including devas, gnomes, eladrin and some humans.
Beneath The Shine, in a realm called The Middlemists, the majority of the known aeroliths can be found – as well as most of the races, settlements and kingdoms of Skai’Roon. This is also where the mists grow thick and damp, greatly limiting visibility beyond the shores of the aeroliths, though those higher up often have relatively clear days out in their open fields.
In the Middlemists there is a point, called The Thick, which marks where the mists grow dense enough to limit all sight beyond the aeroliths’ edge. The Thick is also the place above which the Behemoths of the deep mists cannot reach beyond with their innate ability to swim the dense fog. Plants found here are sickly and dull, and fungus begins to become common. Animals in the lower Middlemists tend to be pale and soft-footed, using the thick mists to hide – predator from prey, and prey from predator alike.
The Middlemists are also home to most of a gigantic landmass called the Ultralith. This massive earthen colossus is bigger than all the other aeroliths of Skai’Roon combined. Taller than it is wide, the pinnacle of the Ultralith reaches into the lowest part of The Shine, while its lowest portions reach down deep into The Gloom. The Ultralith is teaming with life – a mist-shrouded jungle of steep ravines, mossy cliffs, secluded valleys and mountainous peaks covered in enormous caves.
Reptilian creatures dominate the Ultralith, which is home to kobolds, lizardfolk, yuan’ti, troglodytes and all manner of draconic creatures. The dragonborn are likely from the Ultralith originally as well, though they have long since claimed their own lands from among the many nearby aeroliths. But it is the dragons themselves that are the most famous denizens of the Ultralith, making the entire floating continent a dangerous place to even come near. The lure of riches and fame draw some to the Ultralith, but very few ever return. It is rarer still for anyone to bring back anything to show for their efforts beyond horror stories and a lifetime of nightmares.
The Gloom below the Middlemists is exactly like it sounds. A dimly lit realm of impossibly thick fog, The Gloom is so damp that everything in it glistens with moisture; moss and fungus growing on nearly every surface. Wood taken down in The Gloom rots quickly, and few plants or trees can survive for long with so little light. The races of darkness rule in this place, for even the aeroliths down here are constantly enveloped in thick mists that never seem to burn off.
Most of the civilized creatures that live down in The Gloom keep away from the surface of their aeroliths, tunneling deep within to carve out a life where fire and magical light can hold back the damp, cold mists. The dangers down deep are many, but chief among them are the predations of the mist-swimming behemoths and the prowling death ships of the undead. The occasional dragon, drow raider or orc war party are also great threats, but such creatures usually target richer quarry above The Thick.
Its hard to imagine that anything can survive in the Deep Mists, so very close to the Maw of Doom, but there are a few who manage to thrive here. The best known dwellers in the deepest part of the world are the drow, but other creatures – blind barbaric warriors called grimlocks, deep dwarves called duergar, and a strange cousin of the gnome called svirfneblin, all stake their claims on aeroliths just beyond the reach of the instant death that is Oblivion. No light shines down here – the mist is so thick it extinguishes fires as if they are submerged under water, and even magical light is unable to shine visibly beyond a few feet. Nothing but the great and terrible behemoths live upon the surfaces of these aeroliths – all mortals who dwell in the Deep Mists do so by digging deep into the heart of their home.
On individual aeroliths there is often a ruling power of some sort that dominates the entire land. Most often this power is an individual ruler – a king or queen, lord marshal or aristocratic general, or some other kind of titled individual. Some of these ‘nations’ are simple affairs, nothing more than a small kingdom with a few thousand subjects harvesting the limited lands available to them. Others have the good fortune to be on much larger aeroliths, acting as significant political and economic powers, with large cities, well-trained armies and a broad array of noble families helping to control the vast kingdom. But even the largest kingdoms are eventually limited by their unchangeable boarders, just as their smaller cousins, and many are in constant conflict within their own lands as warring nobles each try to take territory from each other. Those that are unified, however, have no choice but to expand their dominion to other aeroliths if they wish to continue to grow.
A few aeroliths are truly enormous, dwarfed only by the Ultralith itself, and it is on these great lands that the imperial powers have grown – reaching beyond their boarders to claim larger dominions. These empires are expanding out to nearby aeroliths and claiming them as protectorates or subjects to their rule, using airships to make their wars, transport their troops and move settlers to unclaimed lands. Now is a time of expansionist dreams for those poised to take advantage of the newest airship technologies.
But the great powers of Skai’Roon are not ready to challenge each other directly yet. Each is working to claim as many of the smaller kingdoms and unsettled aeroliths as they can, all while avoiding provoking open war with each other. Diplomats, advisers to court and spies all work continuously in this harsh environment, each trying to gain knowledge, secrets or new allies to aid their homelands. Imperial powers even form alliances with each other against other powerful empires in an attempt to stave off conflict and buy time to even the odds.
Complicating this dance of etiquette and diplomacy is the fact that these imperial powers have also started trading with each other through the efforts of the merchant guilds. All sorts of valuable commodities are now transported all over Skai’Roon using guild airships and privately contracted light trade ships called Skyrunners.
A Skyrunner is a collective term for any small cargo airship, or its crew members, that hires out for short contract work traveling between aeroliths. Almost all Skyrunner crews take jobs as they come, moving shipments of spices one week and then transporting refugees from an orc raid the next – whatever someone will pay them good coin for. Some crews focus on particular types of jobs, or like to stick within a certain comfort zone, while others are true mercenaries, taking nearly any job and asking few questions. After awhile a good crew develops a reputation, and they live or die by that rep, doing everything they can to protect it.
Skyrunners are the men and women that the children of the world pretend to be when they go out and play, and who adults often wish they had the chance to be as they lament the drudgery of their everyday lives.
Welcome to Skai’Roon.