A thread for locations in Yashain to flesh the place out a bit. If you have any to add, please do so...
The Geography of Yashain
There are many folktales, stories, and religious beliefs regarding the geography of Yashain. While many of these are culturally specific, others are held commonly across Lythia. Drawing on these beliefs, and on various accounts of visits to Yashain, various scholars have attempted to provide accounts of the geography of the place. In one sense, this is a fruitless task. In Yashain geographical relationships, and even time, are fluid and mutable. Navigating in Yashain is as much an exercise in metaphysics and philosophy as it is in navigation in the more traditional sense. The relationships between the various features described in the geographies of Yashain should, therefore, be taken with a grain of salt. However, enough mystics and inter-world travellers report visiting the same features that it is generally accepted that there is at least some kernel of truth to many of the tales.
Perhaps the most consistently reported feature of Yashain is the River. The River is, to most travellers to Yashain, the first feature that they encounter. It divides Yashain from Kethira, and most of the easiest routes from Kethira to Yashain (or vice versa) involve crossing the River. No-one knows from where the River flows, or where it empties. Some believe that the headwaters of the River lie in the Elemental Spheres, and that it empties into the Bukrai, but none have ever followed the river from source to end.
The nature of the river varies from place to place. In his journals, Nithri the Green records crossing from Elfshavel to Faya with a party of Sindarin. The River here was scarcely noticeable, a bubbling brook ankle deep that the party waded across. Nonetheless, Nithri noted that “the brook was a border between the mundane world and one more deeply enriched with magick. Although the crossing was easy, change in aura that accompanied it was palpable.” At other places the river is a mighty flow on which great vessels sail, and in still others it meanders aimlessly through stinking marshes. On the borders between Balgashang and the Blasted Waste the River is said to flow with blood.
The Wild Marches
Lying mostly on the banks of the River, the Wild Marches are the name given to those places in Yashain “closest” to Kethira. Faya is located in the Wild Marches, as are a number of other sites that are relatively “easily” visited from Kethira. In apparent contradiction to the view that the River divides Yashain and Kethira, parts of the Wild Marches can be visited without crossing the River at all. These sites - sometimes referred to as “soft places” are believed to exist simultaneously in both Kethira and Yashain at once, and are both numinous and eerie. Nonetheless, to get from the Soft Places into Yashain proper will inevitably involve crossing the River. The unwary traveller who finds themselves straying unwittingly into one of the Soft Places would do well to watch where they go and cross no brook or stream - no matter how inconsequential - least they become hopelessly lost in Yashain. Until the River is crossed, one can find ones way back from the Wild Marches to Kethira by retracing one’s steps. Once the River is crossed this no longer necessarily applies.
Many marvellous, terrible, or magical animals are reputed to haunt the Wild Marches and from here they may stray into Kethira proper. Similarly, ethereals, sprites, and spirits of all kinds are drawn to such places.
The Free City
While there are many free cities, there is only one Free City. Built of white marble shot through with silver, the towers and arches of the Free City are regarded as one of the most beautiful sights in all Kelestia by those who have visited it. Orchards of almond, olive, and fig surround the city and gardens are carefully tended within the walls. The Free City is located on the banks of the River at the point where it flows into a mighty lake. A bewildering variety of ships come from all over Yashain and from many different Kethiras carrying goods for trade, and the Free City’s markets are said to be the most diverse in existence.
The Free City is governed by a council of six archons, each representing one of the six districts of the city. Each of the archons is themselves a powerful lord with interests extending far beyond the Free City itself. Within the Free City itself, the archons accept no other jurisdiction. The city is neutral, although a hotbed of intrigue and clandestine activity among the varying factions, philosophies, and kingdoms of Yashain.
Two weeks travel from the Free City lies the Keystone. Although the distance remains relatively constant, the direction is known to vary over time as different paths to the stone open and close. A single, unimaginably ancient standing stone, the dolmen is believed by many sages to mark the centre of Yashain. Although the landscape around the stone is known to change, and paths leading to and from it are notably unreliable, it is said that the stone itself never changes and never moves. It is covered with strange glyphs and runes, which are said to encode ancient secrets and is visited from time to time by scholars, mages, and other seekers after esoteric information.