A few days before Calibration – isn’t it strange how so many stories start that way? And still, the date is the date: a few days before Calibration, a collection of strange events and stranger characters converge on a canyon in the deep southeast, where volcanoes belch ash and the sands flow like water.
First, the Guild came, with soldiers and engineers and merchants, and requested to see the mines that gave the canyon its name. The secret of their collapse nearly a year ago had gotten out, it seems. The merchant prince was friendly enough, but the danger was clear to those with eyes to see.
Then, worse, the Dragon-Blooded arrived. Three of them, demanding and frightening, asking to know where their damned jade was, and it became obvious that the mines were just as important to the Realm as the elders said.
Then, on their heels, riding out of the desert came two thousand cavalry led by She of the Thousand Tales, Lady Shafallika the Invincible. The cavalry set up camp at the mouth of the canyon, letting none enter or leave.
What has brought all of these forces here at once? When will the cavalry break their silence, and what will they demand? And when your characters meet their defining moment – when they are lifted up and empowered by the highest of the gods – whose side will they choose? Will their power be enough to stand alone?
Red Jade Canyon is a collection of NPCs that provide an interesting and conflict-filled setting for starting characters. It’s not intended as a full campaign setting, but it makes an excellent place for a first adventure, where characters are chosen by the sun to defend Creation from its foes.
(Click map to enlarge.)
The canyon is small (only about five kilometers long), but densely populated, with houses built into the walls and on any flat surface. Metal and stone are the most common building materials, partly due to their easy availability from the mines, but also out of necessity. Ash storms and tornadoes of fire scour the land frequently. Farms are kept beneath a series of thick, ancient glass domes that have weathered the storms for nearly eight hundred years.
Water comes from an ancient spring in the northern end of the canyon. From there it runs in a brook to the southern end. An underground reservoir at the southern end collects the water, providing enough for a small wet oasis before the water drains into the ground.
Mines dig deep into the mountains on all sides, sometimes perilously close to the volcanoes. All manner of metals can be found in rich veins here, including a vibrant red jade well-suited to the construction of artifacts. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, the jade mine has been collapsed for nearly a year. This has led many people to leave the canyon. Not only has the land’s greatest wealth been depleted, but many fear that outside forces from the Guild or the Realm will turn the canyon into a work camp to get the mines functional again.
There are no shadowlands in Red Jade Canyon. There are demesnes farther into the mountains, but none in the canyon itself, and no manses nearby. The nearest settlements of any size are many kilometers away along the edge where the mountains meet the desert.
Foodstuffs here include teff and wheat, mint and cardamom, soybeans and garlic, eggplant and grapefruit. The ash-filled soil is a rich growing environment. Most foods were imported long ago from farther north, chosen for their hardiness and low water requirement. Chicken is the most common food animal, with a species of suspiciously fire-resistant goat close behind.
The People of Red Jade Canyon
About ten thousand individuals live in Red Jade Canyon. Nearly every family is native to the southeast, with skin tones tending to brown and reddish-brown, and dark eyes. Some rare individuals have red eyes, which, while disconcerting to outsiders, is normal here – merely a result of the town’s proximity to the elemental pole.
Names in Red Jade Canyon get longer with age. The first syllable is the family name. Later syllables are added when a child begins to walk, or after puberty, or after marriage, or when they come back to the canyon after traveling, or a half-dozen other important life events. A final syllable is added after death, to placate the soul.
Using the Characters
Our first setting, The Shores, was best for characters who were moving quietly through the world and more interested in subtle investigation or the careful acquisition of power than in overt displays of magical might. Red Jade Canyon is just the opposite. This is a place where a newly-chosen Solar will be drawn into existing events, augmenting and accelerating the story rather than derailing it. The characters presented here will not drop everything to deal with the sudden appearance of a new circle of Solars in their midst, but will instead draw the characters into a dangerous and explosive scenario.
The characters in Red Jade Canyon are also less tightly interconnected than those of The Shores. This makes it easier to take a handful of them and drop them into your own setting, or to remove one or two of them from this setting without breaking an important thread of connection.
Here’s a link to the relationship map for Red Jade Canyon.