Mer’thira Icy Hills sits in the south, with hills covered in ice and a cold fog that rolls through the region nearly year round. Those who inhabited the hills, for some reason, have mainly kept to themselves. They occasionally traded with neighboring settlements, cities, and tribes. But for the most part, they didn’t really want to get involved with the world. For most of its history, religion has had a major significance to the inhabitants. It passed from tribe to tribe and from city to city. The birth of this religion is steeped in mystery. Any history of its origins have long been lost. This was a religion that worshiped the goddess of life and death, Ylesis, and her twin brother Yros, the god of chaos and punishment.
All that inhabited the area seemed to fall into the religion, even those who were of atheistic faith. Some even became fanatical about it. It was the same for Deund City. The zu’aan of Deund had never been religious, even after facing the kin’toni. They looked more towards themselves instead of wanting to pray and worship deities that they couldn’t even see. But after arriving in the hills, religion seemed to creep up on them. They had discovered remnants of previous inhabitants that worshipped the twins. It didn’t take long for them to follow as well. With this religion, they gained a better appreciation of their environment, their lives, and even death. Their approach to life completely changed.
When they had been searching for a place to call home, they had accidentally stumbled upon the cold, icy, and isolated Mer’thira. It wasn’t a place that they had searched for, nor was it a place that they wanted to settle down into. It had simply been a place for them to rest and get their bearings. There were no other inhabitants, only remnants of the past were left. The kin’toni also hadn’t reached this far south. They figured that they would stay for a few months to regain their energy and restock their resources. After discovering Ylesis and Yros, they decided to stay. It wasn’t easy settling in the hills. The summers were cold and the winters were even colder.
Loss of limbs from frostbite, death by freezing and starvation, and injuries from the cutting wind were as common and as absolute as the sun rising and setting. It took a long time for them to fully assimilate, gather viable food and water sources, and build a city that could somewhat protect them from the cold, the kin’toni, the animals, and the other zu’aan. Every once in a while, other zu’aan would try to make a claim on the hills. With the god of chaos and punishment driving them forward, they dealt with the would-be invaders with extreme violence. They were savage in their attacks, seeming to relish in the blood and chaos. When the invaders are killed, the zu’aan pray to Ylesis and ask that she guide the dead to the after, the realm beyond death.
Through their religion, they honor death, even the death of their enemies.
The Mer’thira Icy Hills are a vast, cold, and icy expanse of rolling hills that span nearly 2,300 square kilometers. The northern part of the region sits higher than the southern part and hills of all sizes with rounded tops are spread throughout the entire region, with very few areas of flat land. All of the hills have layers of ice on them, some are thin enough to be called frost and some are extremely thick. The largest hill has a peak at nearly nine hundred feet with a base stretching almost ten square miles. The steep hill sits towards the center of Mer’thira. There are countless hills in the region, some barely reaching the height of a child. The higher and steeper hills seem to sit more of the north
Deund City sits within a cradle of low bearing hills towards the southern part of the region. They built it this way to help stave off some of the cold and offer some protection. This cradle spans a little over a hundred square kilometers. There is a gap almost twelve feet between the two hills at the front of the city. Some of the hills are connected to each other, with small drops in between their peaks. The hills have a tundra climate. The summers are cold, hardly ever going about fifty degrees in both the day and the night. The winters are even colder, freezing even. Days see lows of nearly zero degrees and nights see several dozen degrees below zero. Sometimes during the early summer, a freezing cold rain will fall.
This is the only time that it might rain, and even these instances are rare and few between. Snow is the most common form of precipitation. It falls in slow clumps, softly covering the hills in thin blankets of snow. And it falls fast in hard blizzards, covering the land in thick blankets of hard snow. These blizzards drop the temperature even more. Fire is hardly able to keep the frost off. Hail is also not surprising to see. Both plant life and animal life are scarce. There are a few areas where the ice is thin enough to allow life to push through, but there are more areas of thick ice. There are plants that can only grow in conditions like this as well, some of which cover entire hills.
The plants don’t grow very tall and some are covered in a layer of frost for most of the year. Trees grow towards the edges of the region, but none can be seen in the center. The animals have characteristics that allow them to survive in the hills. They have thick fur, sharp claws, and strong bodies. Towards the south lies a large river spanning nearly twelve feet in width and fifteen feet deep. The water is extremely cold and hard to cross. Only about twenty miles of it goes through the region. This is one of the few sources of water for the zu’aan.
Plant life is scarce in the Mer’thira Icy Hills. The ice is thin in some areas, allowing a bit more to grow, but really thick in other areas. While there are plants that are able to grow and thrive in this particular environment, there are not many. Some of the flowers bloom throughout the whole year, but most are seasonal. Aathel are a species of shrubbery native to the hills. It grows up to three feet tall, and is considered to be one of the tallest plants. It has several long and flexible, wonky like stems covered in fine, rough, gray bark, and the wood inside is white. The branches are long, thin and wispy with dozens of twigs that are covered with small amounts of large, white, heart-shaped leaves with serrated edges.
It produces hundreds of small, silvery blue flowers with 3 V- shaped petals. Aathel grows and blooms year round. Both the petals and the stems of the shrub are edible, but have a bitter taste to them. A thin layer of frost usually covers aathel. They are spaced out all around and over the hills. Nocro are small white flowers that grow around the edges of the hills towards the south. Their white stems are thin and stretch up to six inches tall. Small, black leaves with wavy edges line along the stem. Dozens of the white flowers cluster along the stem. The tear shaped petals form an urn shaped flower head. Nocro are considered flowers for the dead. When zu’aan die in the hills, they are buried with hundreds of the little flowers.
The zu’aan believe the flowers are tears of Ylesis, the goddess of ice. They believe that the goddess sheds tears for the dead, the tears turn to flowers, and the flowers will guide them to the afterlife. Those not buried with nocro are those who have broken laws. They believe that they have disgraced the goddess and do not deserve proper funeral rites. Those zu’aan do not get reincarnated. Funerals are the only thing that these flowers are used for. To use them for anything else is considered to be a desecration and a betrayal of Ylesis. Aadrood are small, pale purple flowers that cover entire hills towards the northern part of the region. They can grow up to four inches tall and grow without much space between them.
Their white stem is very thick and straight with a curved tip. Small, white, pointed leaves with straight edges climb up the stem in an irregular pattern. Each stem splits off into six stems about half way up. Each of these six stems houses two flowers. The broad, rounded petals with two splitted points at the end are layered and grow close together to form a deep bowl with a shallow center. They bloom all year round and have a sweet scent that swells and becomes sweeter in the summer. The petals at the bottom are said to be sweeter than the ones on top.
Due to the ice and extremely cold climate, there is not much animal life in Mer’thira Icy Hills. The animals that do inhabit the hills have thick fur, sharp claws, and fat to protect them from the freezing cold. Birds fly over the region, taking rests on some of the high hills, but none actually make their homes here. Mabit are a rare breed of large, six legged mammals native to Mer’thira. They stand at a shoulder height of nearly seven feet and a length of five feet. They have a soft, but strong skin covered in thick, fluffy, white fur. It hangs low off of their round bodies. Their four eyes are a pale red, almost pink color. They have long, thick eyelashes that help block the cold wind from cutting their eyes.
Even without the thick eyelashes, they have pretty poor sight. Though their vision is poor, they have extremely good hearing that can easily pick out different sounds. They make sounds ranging from very high pitched to extremely low pitched and have a wide range of sounds they make to indicate discoveries, dangers and to communicate with each other. They're carnivores with big blunt teeth perfect for crunching through flesh, muscles, and bone. These creatures are bold, but they won't defend their territory much. They mate once every three years and females give birth to around three young. They live and sleep wherever, preferring to just lay on their folded legs.
Camite is a breed of fish living in the river towards the south of the region. It grows to a length of around one and a half feet. It has two huge side fins, and a thick, long dorsal fin. Their thick, diamond shaped scales are a mix of blue and silver. The scales closer to their heads are larger than the rest. They're carnivores and prey on smaller fish and sometimes on each other since they have the largest population within the river. They have large, round yellow eyes. Their heads are small and narrow in comparison to their bodies. Both males and females are able to carry and lay eggs. Many believe that they evolved this way to keep their population up, which works.
They can lay anywhere from thirty to fifty eggs at a time. About two thirds of the young don’t reach maturity as the adults often eat them. Ester is a medium sized, four legged mammal. They stand at a shoulder height of five feet. Their rounded bodies have thick, silvery blue fur that has a wooly texture covering it, and short, curly tails. Their eyes are bright purple. They live in cold regions like this, but they aren’t native to Mer’thira. They are one of the few herbivores in the hills and their relatively small mouths, their teeth and wide tongue are ideal for eating plants. Their small stature doesn't require much sustenance. They're nocturnal and rely on their sight and sense of smell to get around.
They do have small, hanging ears, but their hearing isn’t that good. They make sounds ranging from low pitched to high pitched to communicate with each other. This really helps them during blizzards. They are relatively docile creatures. Females, after mating, can give birth to up to three young.