The mountains of Zenith are the tallest in the nation, and perhaps the Empire, and the air here is still and cold. The spires tend towards the contemplative, the night sky is rarely concealed by clouds making the territory perfect for stargazers. Many religious thinkers and philosophers also reside in Zenith, where they claim that the rarefied air helps them maintain a sense of detachment and clarity.
Zenith is well known for its abundant magical auras and many spires have experimented with arrays of metal mirrors that focus the light of the sun into internal chambers to try enhance the production of magical crystals. Zenith also has some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Nation, with apparently bottomless mountain lakes providing succulent fish to supplement the diet of the inhabitants.
Somewhere to the east of Zenith lies the nation of Axos. Between the two nations is a mountainous area that the Urizen call the Mountains of the Moon. Explorers claimed that the area was impassable, but there were always stories of hidden or hard to find passes that allowed access to an unknown territory that lay within. While the war with the Druj still raged, several bands of scouts risked the high passes from Spiral to scout the Mountains of the Moon - and following the Summer Solstice 382YE were the first Imperials to become aware of the people of Tsark.
A month after tthe Spring Equinox 381YE, the Druj barbarians invaded Zenith from the Mallum. The initial attack swept the unprepared defenders away, and saw the destruction of the powerful spire of Endsmeet. Lustri and Occursion fell to the orcs in short order.
Only a brave defense by the three Highborn armies - the Seventh Wave, the Granite Pillar, and the Valiant Pegasus - stopped the Druj from conquering the entire territory. The Druj responded with blackest malice, unleashing a marshwalker against the high mountain dam supplying water to the Golden Cascade. The resulting catastrophic flood ruined the fertile plains of Proceris and forced the defenders back west to a thin sliver of higher ground. At the same time, the Druj destroyed numerous sinecures, and burnt several prominent spires including the Arch of the Sky.
After the Winter Solstice 381YE, the Druj launched a major assault against the defenders of Zenith. They pushed the Highborn westward inexorably, eventually driving the three armies out of the territory entirely and claiming it for the Mallum. Only the fact the Halls of Knowledge had been moved under mysterious circumstances a few months previously prevented them from capturing (and presumably destroying) it. The Gardens of Pallas however were not so fortunate; the Druj looted and then burnt them to the ground.
Apart from a few isolated spires hidden beneath veils of Night magic, much of the population of Zenith has been displaced. Refugees fled to Redoubt and Morrow, while those who remained behind were enslaved by the Druj. The loss of life in Zenith was much smaller than it could have been - the courageous defence of the territory by the Highborn armies allowed many who might otherwise have fallen into the hands of the eastern orcs to escape that dread fate.
Following the Winter Solstice 382YE, a daring raid was launched into Zenith by a combination of Urizen sentinels, Highborn soldiers, heralds, and Imperial heroes from several nations. Its aim was to free as many prisoners from the Druj as possible. The raid was a resounding success and almost two-thirds of those trapped in Zenith were liberated including over seven hundred Highborn soldiers and more than two hundred sentinels who later went on to join the Citadel Guard.
Arch of the Sky
Before the Druj invastion of 381YE, the Arch of the Sky was a collection of spires on the tallest mountain in Zenith. Stargazers and astronomancers from all of Empire gathered here to observe the night skies, and debate the Net of the Heavens. One of the most prestigious schools of astronomancy, it was also one of the finest observatories in Urizen, if not the Empire.
The flood waters unleashed by the destruction of the Golden Cascade did not reach the spire itself of course, but even as the dam was being smashed apart Druj guerillas were moving into position. Many of the astronomancers and star-watchers had already retreated, but a handful of magicians and sentinels remained behind in the hope of holding the orc invaders at bay. Such hope was in vain. Less than a week after the Autumn Equinox, the eastern orcs captured and looted the Arch of the Sky. What they could not carry away was reduced to ashes and broken ruins.
This spire in south-western Occursion studied interaction between people, and had particular interest in times of political turmoil in the Empire. It was home to refugees from Spiral, particularly those who brought with them the great library of Ankarien. Sadly, when the Druj invaded they quickly overwhelmed the spire. Many of the Urizen living there managed to escape, but the library was burned and those who did not flee either killed or enslaved by the ruthless eastern orcs.
The lakes of Zenith are deep, but of particular interest are the two bodies of water known together as "Bountiful Autumn". Found in Occursion, their shores were once regarded as a particularly fortuitous place to marry for the success of the new family. Although modern Urizen have found little support for these claims, it is worth noting that the lakes lie within a strong regio tied to the Autumn realm. To this day, it is still traditional to eat fish from the lakes at a wedding, or to present them (fresh or cooked) as gifts to particularly close friends. Ritual magic used to create bonds between individuals is said to be especially potent when performed at these lakes, or using pure water gathered from their depths at certain specific times of year (the exact times are closely guarded secrets shared only by the spires that stand on the mountainsides above the lakes).
The passes between Clypion and Proceris house a cluster of spires keen to take advantage of the relative seclusion of their foothills. The spires are all "related" - formed initially by settlers originating in the nearby Arch of the Sky, and later by successive generations gathered from among these daughter-spires as their populations grew. The spires of the "Clypion Alliance" maintain cordial relations, and each tends to specialise in study of impractical esoterica. Critics suggest that the magi of Clypion see practical applications of theory or magic as somehow beneath them. There have been spires devoted to the study of boundaries, of ageing, of ceremonies, of symbols, and perhaps most recursively, to the study of the studies of other spires...
Several of the older spires are starting to feel a little crowded, and it is likely that a new spire will be formed within the next few years - there is likely to be fierce competition between the Clypion spires to determine the location and focus of this new spire.
The Halls of Knowledge once stood high in the mountains of Clypion. One of the greatest Imperial colleges dedicated to the study of magic, it attracted students, lecturers, and magical theoreticians from across the Empire. Shortly after the Autumn Equinox 381YE, however, the college vanished. It reappeared shortly before the Winter Solstice, relocated to the volcanic pools of Peregro in Morrow. The Provost at the time, Octavius of the Auric Horizon, disappeared along with the college - and did not reappear when the buildings were relocated. He returned several months later, none the worse for his experience, with no memory of the intervening time.
The plains of Iteri in western Zenith are home to the river Utique, a tributary of the Couros which flows from Redoubt in the south. The land here is rich in fine clay and valuable dragonbone deposits, both of which contribute to a reputation for producing beautiful ceramics. Iteri also boastd the ancient Spire Calator near the foot of Mount Lutum, where the secrets of ushabti production are believed to have first been codified. The artisans of Urizen once gathered here to study and perfect the craft of these valuable magical constructs. The spire was known as much for its art as for the practical application of the artificer's craft. Some magi sent their students to Spire Calator specifically to study the arts of formal debate at this famously argumentative spire. An ongoing debate between those who favoured artistic form over practical function that had been going on for nearly 150 years without any clear victor ended abruptly when the Druj conquered the spire toward the end of 381YE. Most of the inhabitants were able to escape, thanks to the valiant action of Highborn soldiers.
Along the banks of the Couros stood the Gardens of Pallas sinecure. The Druj looted the gardens of their herbs, smashed the ushabti gardeners, and then burnt everything in a grand bonfire the smoke from which was visible in both Morrow and Redoubt.
Lustri is heavily forested, and was once home to many carefully cultivated preserves. Known both for the quality of its iridescent gloaming and the beggarwood trees that provide wood, bark, and lye to artisans across Urizen, the deeper parts of the woods have a bad reputation. There are many stories of encounters between travelers and dangerous creatures such as the tulpas said to have escaped from the Spire of Twisting Shadows.
The Spire itself was an ancient structure dedicated to the treatment (and, functionally, incarceration) of those who suffer long term spiritual or mental damage due to exposure to magic. Most of the inmates are were voluntarily, but a few are restrained for their own safety. The spire had a grim reputation, unsurprisingly. A significant portion of the patients here had been hurt due to overuse or misuse of astronomancy - permanently twisted by exposure to a tulpa. The physics of the Spire of Twisting Shadows has a great deal of practical experience dealing with magical curses as well as more esoteric maladicaments, and was always interested in reports of new malign enchantments - or the opportunity to study them.
In Summer 380YE, during the ascent of the red star, the Spire of Twisting Shadows was destroyed following a riot among the patients. The ruins are widely believed to be haunted by the ghosts of the staff and inmates who died in its fall.
The herb conservatory of Origen's Rest stood near the Spire, and was largely untouched by the destruction inspired by the Red Star. Sadly, it was not untouched by the Druj invasion and in Autumn 381YE confirmation came that the Druj had looted and destroyed it, robbing the Anvil Hospital & Imperial School of Medicine of a valuable source of medicinal herbs.
More than any other region in Zenith, Occursion was home to spires dedicated to religious philosophy and many illuminates and questors had their homes here. The northernmost slopes of these mountains enjoyed a particularly still, cold, dry air which was believed to aid contemplation, and focus the mind. Priests here practiced meditative arts and subtle magics that allow them to explore their own thoughts, and often receive unique insights into the natures of the virtues and the philosophies of the Way. The Tower of the Fall was believed to have been built as a retreat for just such an exploration of the inner magic of the spirit. Sadly, the Tower was a casualty of the Druj invastion. Along with the beautiful Starlight Drift of Shimmering Snow, it was torn apart by the rapacious orcs.
Of particular note were the famous spire of Endsmeet, and the Hall of the Risen Sun, a beautiful edifice of white granite, polished marble, and orichalcum mirrors which serves as a great cathedral for the faithful of Zenith (and Urizen as a whole). Dedicated to the virtues of Pride and Ambition, the Illuminates combined study of the Way with mastery of the Net of the Heavens and were known to be quite active in political affairs of the territory, nation, and (from time to time) the Empire itself. Since the reign of Emperor Walter they had been somewhat reticent about involving themselves in wider affairs - but during the reign of the late Empress Britta there were signs this spire was beginning to pay close attention to affairs of the Synod and Senate once more. Both spires were captured by the Druj during the 381YE invasion, and those Urizen who did not manage to flee are presumed either dead or enslaved.
Much of the region of Proceris lies in the shadows of the lofty peaks that surround it. While there were few spires here, there were settlements devoted to what little agriculture the Urizen and their ushabti could muster in this chilly climate. Proceris actually had a fascinating microclimate for those that are interested in such matters, with many frost hollows and sun traps that provide unique opportunities to the spires that live here. The region was sparsely populated, even for Urizen, and with the exception of the Arch of the Sky what spires there were tend to explore somewhat mundane, practical matters such as farming and economy. Architects in particular often found reasons to visit or live in Proceris, and many of the magicians here focused their studies on the secrets of Spring and Autumn magic.
Perhaps the richest farmers in Urizen lived in Proceris, three spires that between them maintained and worked the Golden Cascade - a series of terraces carved into the foothills and supported both with powerful ritual magic, expertly constructed aqueducts, and great polished mirrors that ensured that the fields here receive as much sunlight as possible all year round. The golden cascade was seen by many as a wonder of the Empire, and while it had been copied by a few other spires, there was no match for the size and fertility of this great farm anywhere in Urizen. Sadly, when the Druj came in 381YE they saw the Golden Cascade not as a wonder but as an opportunity. In Autumn of that year they unleashed a marshwalker against the dam that channeled water into the aqueducts. The catastrophic flood that followed devastated the Golden Cascade, ruined the agricultural spires, destroyed hundreds of ushabti, and drowned scores of farmers. The tragic loss of the Golden Cascade had dire significance for the territory; most of its agriculture lost in one fell swoop.
The Storm Vault, high in the mountains above Echostorm Spire, was another casualty of the Druj invasion, torn apart for its mana and valuable mithril.
During the Winter Solstice 381YE, the Druj undertook esoteric action including the creation of several miasma pillars that began transforming the entire region into a stinking morass of marsh and swampland.
- As of the start of the Spring Equinox 382YE, the Druj control the entire territory.
- The destruction of the Golden Cascade in Autumn 381YE has devastated the main farming region in Zenith (if not Urizen as a whole). As a consequence, every farm resource in Zenith suffers a permanent 18 ring penalty to its production.
- Any attempt to build a fortification in flooded Proceris are likely to encounter additional costs and difficulties.