Developing Akorros – Lake Amsorak and the Shi’ika part 2

As I mentioned, I’m participating in this year’s WorldAnvil Summer Camp, and this has inspired me to start developing Lake Amsorak and the people who live there.

In the previous post, I discussed the formation of the Amsorak Basin and the lake itself, and introduced the Shi’ika trading folk who make their lives there. Additional Summer Camp prompts led me to develop them further.

While the Shi’ika are mostly nomadic (if you can use that term about water wanderers), I have given them a couple of settlements, one public and one very secretive. This post looks at them.

Updated extract of Thorfinn Tait’s Darokin map, adding Shis’trelton and Shi’nolkan

Shis’trelton, Lake Amsorak (sheess-TRELL-tən)

Prompt: Α settlement beside or in a great expanse. On WorldAnvil here.

On the northern shore of Lake Amsorak, within the borderland region of Brethald, is the harbour town of Shis’trelton. This is owned and run by The Shi’ika, and is devoted to boat building, repair and upkeep.

There are various dry docks where serious damage can be repaired, and new boats assembled, and multiple piers where more superficial damage – broken masts, damaged rigging, internal damage – can be addressed.

There are also areas of hard standing next to the shore where boats can be pulled up out of the water, some covered, some open-air, and warehouses where major stores are kept. These include both the raw materials for the boat builders – timber, rope, tar, paint, cloth for sails, nails, bolts, shackles, chain, anchors – and a central store for major trade goods which are valued by the settlements around the lake.

There is a constant sound of hammering, sawing, scraping, planing, drilling, and a combined smell of fresh wood and the tar which caulks the vessels. The area around the harbour is all paved in stone to avoid mud, and the wood shavings and sawdust get strewn on the wider streets and paths which haven’t been paved.

The majority of the settlement is devoted to the boats, and most of the people living there are Shi’ika who work in the harbour, but there are also the foresters who go into the woods which surround the settlement searching out the cedar for decking and exterior joinery, straight fir trees for masts and booms, as well as for interior joinery (along with oak), and teak and iroko for the main boat structure.

There are, of course, also a couple of inns, and lodgings and rooms for the people from the boats which are being repaired. There is also a village hall where regular dances and card parties take place.

There is a constant coming and going of boats – mostly Shi’ika, but others also take advantage of the boat-building mastery, so the harbours here are always busy. It is also a good place for the Shi’ika boats to pick up timber from the nearby forests and stock from various Shi’ika wholesalers who have their stores and warehouses here, before setting off round the villages again.

Shi’nolkan, Razak’s Rock (shee-NOL-kan)

Prompt: A settlement that was lost or discovered. On WorldAnvil here.

Most of the Amsorak Boat People  spend their lives travelling around the lake, taking the goods of everyday life to and between the villages and towns which surround the lake. However, their cultural heart is their hidden settlement of Shi’nolkan on Razak’s Rock in the middle of the lake. Razak’s Rock is described in the Darokin Gazetteer as follows: 

Razak’s Rock is aptly named. The third island on Lake Amsorak, the Rock is just that – a rock. Only the hardiest mosses grow on the island, and a few nesting birds make up its entire wildlife population. It is an empty, desolate place. …

Razak’s Rock does have a sheltered bay on its north side, with calm, crystal clear water and a beach of fine, jet-black sand. The sand is in demand by artists and other craftsmen as a novelty, and a few brave entrepreneurs will occasionally sail to the Rock to dig up a load , but it’s hard to find a crew or boat owner willing to make the trip.

There are rumors of several underwater caves on Razak’s Rock, which are supposed to be the hiding place of (according to which rumor is being retold) pirate treasure , dragon hoards, the secret treasure vaults of the lthel family, or some combination of the above. If anyone has found any such caves, they have kept quiet about it.

Razak’s Rock is aptly named. The third island on Lake Amsorak, the Rock is just that – a rock. Only the hardiest mosses grow on the island, and a few nesting birds make up its entire wildlife population. It is an empty, desolate place. …There are rumors of several underwater caves on Razak’s Rock, which are supposed to be the hiding place of (according to which rumor is being retold) pirate treasure , dragon hoards, the secret treasure vaults of the lthel family, or some combination of the above. If anyone has found any such caves, they have kept quiet about it.

GAZ 11 The Republic of Darokin, p50

That’s the general view of people living around and on the lake. The Shi’ika know better. Delving deep into the rock from the harbour are caves and passages which lead to a central cavern. How this was formed is unknown. The Shi’ika historians speculate that it might have been caused in the upheaval which ruined Itheldown Castle and finished the Ithel family, but its uniform roundness suggests something more natural at work. It might have been a lava chamber left during the time of the volcanoes, or it might have been softer rock worn away by the glaciers, or a meteorite crater which later got covered over by the movement of the earth, or even the work of some mighty beast like a dragon, carving out and smoothing out a living chamber.

Photo by Stephen Tafra on Unsplash

Whatever the source of the chamber, some ancient civilization once lived there, and has carved out a network of living quarters, rooms, chambers, vents and passages, with clever use of clear quartz columns through the rock bringing the daylight down from above without exposing it to idle discovery from above.

That civilization is long gone, and it is now a holy place for the Shi’ika. It is where they congregate at the solstices and equinoxes for partying, prayer and celebrations, where marriages are consecrated, and where a token of every Shi’oka is brought on their death so they can remain with their people in the afterlife.

There is a permanent staff of their holy people living here, tending to the chamber, maintaining the rituals which they believe will protect the Shi’ika, and looking after the crypts where the remains are stored for eternity.

In the very centre of the cavern is a waist-high upwelling of rock, ornately carved by Shi’ika clerics, and with a silver basin somehow fused to the top. When this is filled with water and then ritually blessed, it can be used to watch over the Shi’ika boats with scrying magic, and even to control the weather on the lake. Each Shi’oka boat has a fist-sized stone ball carved in the same patterns as the upwelling rock, and they can use this to send an alert or cry for help; when they do, a part of the pedestal lights up and a tone sounds. There is always an acolyte on duty read to sound the alert within the chamber, and a senior cleric will come to view the situation and see how they can help. The rumours that attacking a Shi’oka boat bring bad luck have some grounding in fact…

Notes

Brethald doesn’t have a name in any of the official Mystara publications. It just appears as an unnamed region in the very rough map borderlands/regions map on page 11. The name was suggested by Hugin in a discussion on the Atlas of Mystara site when Thorfinn Tait was updating the map of the Republic and wanted names for the unnamed regions, and so appears in Thorfinn Tait’s gorgeous updated map. See region 5 in post #44 in the archived discussion.

The Shi’oka settlement was originally inspired by Greenleaf Island on the map of Darokin. I liked the idea that this sailing tribe might have a private settlement only accessible by water, and pictured the island as heavily wooded. I then referred back to the gazetteer, and realised the island was ironically named:

Whoever named Greenleaf Island had an interesting sense of humor as the island is practically bare of greenery. In fact , it has very little life of any son on it . The island is lightly covered with short, scrubby brown grasses. There are no trees or even bushes. The only green comes from small patches of grass and some moss growing on rocks near the shore.

GAZ 11 The Republic of Darokin, ppp45-46

I briefly toyed with breaking from canon, but decided better of it. Placing it in the north of the lake which looks pretty sparsely inhabited seemed a next best option. Again, it looks like the best way of access is via water, and the map very definitely shows plenty of forests nearby for the timber.

My original ideas for the settlement also made it a religious centre for the Shi’ika, but when reviewing the islands I was intrigued by the description of Razak’s Rock (as above), and the thought that maybe the off-putting rumours were deliberately seeded by the Shi’ika to protect their holy place. From that grew the idea of Shi’nolkan. The most available prompt was the settlement that was lost or discovered, which inspired building it in a previously abandoned space.

Leave a Reply