When people on Kassidor hear of this basin they think of either the Ttharmine breakout or heat, mud and poverty. Of course not all of the basin suffers from any of those afflictions, but you will find quite a bit of each of them here.
There are two important geological features in this basin. The first and most spectacular are the Tanquetil mountains. They are a whole continental block turned on its side. The feature penetrates hundreds of miles into the planet's mantle. It gradually floats to the surface and erodes away. The highest points on the planet's surface are in these mountains. The steepest long distance slopes are in these mountains, the highest cliffs are here.
The mountains are all but impenetrable. Quakes make any but the most resilient structures impossible. Any trails carved into the mountains soon fall away. The weather is the most frightful on an inhabited planet. The steep temperature gradients and huge amounts of moisture in the air make the storms powerful and unpredictable. Glaciers move fast in these mountains, expeditions have been cut off and crushed. The soaring cliffs are unstable, rock falls are common and may involve millions of tons.
The storm coast has not been seen by mankind since the breakout. Radar images thru the clouds have been taken by ships from the Angel civilization, and by instruments from Almond's Crossing when the tube was brought thru. Erosion continues at a frantic pace. That area has not been free of precipitation in recorded history, and history of the area goes back to 5900bc.
The climate of the Sweatlands is only a little drier. This region has temperatures over 100F (38C) and humidity nearing 100%. Rain falls weekly from dusk till the beginning of Dawnsleep, on some weeks, all thru the light. The elevation is up to two miles below sea level, so the temperature might get down into the upper 80's during the dark. This is a chilly land for Hotbloods, but nearly uninhabitable for normal humans. In spite of that it is densely populated with people of both metabolisms. Unmodified humans do their work during dark or Morningday and must stay in water or at least wet during Afternoonday.
In the southwest is a much better climate. It's hot, but no hotter than the Gulf Coast of America in summer. In this region more than half the light of the week has sunshine and the fertility of the soil is legendary, especially considering that it has been tilled about twenty thousand years.
The plains and deserts of the south are hot and dry, except for the heights of North Kwaitainia. They are all part of the Kwaitainia Shield formation, a sunken continental plate where rocks over five billion years old can be found in the gravel.
The climate of the city ranges from hot to uninhabitable by unmodified human beings. Besides the heat, it is humid and the air is thick. Surviving the Afternoonday is an adventure for many. Elaborate shades and wetting devices are common. The ridge runs along the northwest of the urban area and is an expensive area because it is ten degrees cooler. Most of the city is over water and that helps moderate the temperature a little. The water entering the city is only 97F (36C).
The most important geological formation in human history is perhaps the Ttharmine Ridge. It is the ridge that re-named an ocean. It is only a narrow wrinkle in the crust, seldom a mile in height, only half that at the city of Hrrst. This ridge kept the waters of the Great Sea contained for many thousands of years. The sea actually slowly rises till it reaches the top of the ridge. While it is nearing the top, or even starting to trickle over the top, any strong quake will turn loose the sea in a flood. That quake happened in 1731bc. In just a few Earth years the trickle had turned to a torrent that could not be crossed. It raged for more than a hundred years. When it was over, the Great Sea had fallen over seventeen hundred feet, disappearing from the lives of the people who used to line its shores.
The sea had poured out onto the Zhlindu basin floor, turning a former desert to a shallow sea and submerging and exterminating the civilization of the Tduun. It turns out this is a climate cycle on the planet, now called the Ttharmine cycle. It takes about ten thousand Earth years to complete. As soon as the water flowing from the sea goes still, the cleft in the Ttharmine ridge begins to silt up again and for thousands of years it stays ahead of the rise in the waters. It has risen eight feet since its lowest point. This cycle effects the ebb and flow of glaciers in all the wastes surrounding all the Tharmine basins, the Kyeb and the Zhlindu. It has been going on for more than four hundred million years.
This basin may be the most historically significant basin on the planet. It may be the gigantic rival state in The Fall, or it may have been as stated in the Kassikan's records, a steaming jungle, used only as a source of dirt for the plume that enveloped the Old Lands when the military turned on itself. For whatever reason, during the bombings, more impacters were directed at what is now the western Sweatlands than any other point on the globe. So much so that there is nothing from before that time for archeologists to dig.
The location and existence of Ardan on Kassidor is as controversial as Atlantis is on Earth. The accepted view is that the name 'Ardan' meant the entire Elven empire. If it was a separate state, the leading contender is this over-bombed stretch of land south and west of Issridel. During the Energy Age it is likely that the climate of the area was much more equitable and a mighty nation may have existed here. The whole of the central Hrrst Basin is a huge area, larger than any other nation of those times, able to contain a state that may have fought the world empire of Dempala to a standstill. There is not enough data to be sure that The Fall was a conflict between separate nations or a civil war.
There are some who say that Pribilar was closer to the site, but that region was not heavily bombarded and there is archeological evidence that the area was an agricultural land like today. The biggest evidence in favor of the southwest Hrrst basin as the site is the number of Pallantirs (far seeing eyes) that were plowed up by farmers tilling their fields during the Troubled Times.
These devices were feared as omens of evil at the time and most of them were destroyed. They are actually optical data devices that were replacing blinker code devices near the end of the Energy Age, especially under the military empire. Legends say they were used only by the military. The people of Kassidor once thought they were simply more advanced blinker code devices, though in truth Centorin science cannot prove they are not magic. It was said they were manufactured in Ardan.
Besides the bombing, anything left out in the climate of the Sweatlands is consumed in less than a century. Metal, which was the primary marker of Energy Age sites, decays rapidly in the acid soil. Any organic material is gone in far less than a century. Lichens and moss make worked stone into random boulders in only a few centuries. The Energy Age was seven thousand years ago. Even without the bombing, the absence of population would have erased all traces of the civilization over this much time.
Over this whole basin, there were essentially no survivors of The Fall. Empty seaports have been found on the East Ttharmine Sea at the level it was during the Energy Age. The blasts leveled them to their foundations, everything was burned in the firestorms. There is conjecture that there were also biological weapons employed in this area, because the extinction was much more complete than in the Old Lands.
The repopulation after The Fall came from two directions, Elves, primarily Lorian Elves coming from the west, and Goblins coming from the East Golibar Valley. The Goblins proved better able to stand the heat than the Elves and were the first to settle the swamps of Hrrst. They were there as soon as the current was slack enough to allow them. They and the rushwood and big-leaf tight-swamp took over the source of the rivers as soon as the flood was over. This swamp is still responsible for filtering most of the salt out of the Imoneeya and Kimoneeya rivers.
Hotbloods began entering the area before the fall of Rome. Today Hrrst is the second largest Hotblood city and they make up forty percent of the population. They take most of the heavy work in the basin today and as such are vital to its survival. Because of their presence, the basin and city borrow a lot of culture from Darceen. Note that the only practical way to get from Hrrst to Darceen is by suntower. The journey by sea is not possible today, and the journey overland is arduous for a Hotblood.
You will hear some Kassidorians say there is no culture in the Hrrst basin. That statement is not correct. There is remarkably little in the city of Hrrst considering its size, but the basin itself is not like the city.
Each of the cities of today's basin is the center of a cultural region. Pribilar is the most agrarian Wood Elf city and the most prosperous in the basin. Afternoondays rarely get above 110F and it isn't as humid as the other regions. A cup and a shade tree are enough to get you by. On Morningdays it is possible for unmodified humans to work the fields and a hundred million of them do. Hotbloods inhabit this area, but huddle indoors in the dark and work outside on Afternoondays when they find it merely brisk. It is a common region for Hotblood travelers who can get back in the Darceen basin just west of Illtale.
Issridel is the center of the Lorian Elves. These people have a modification not as extensive as the Hotbloods, but it lets them tolerate the climate a little better. Because the region is almost eternally cloud covered, it doesn't get as hot as it would on Afternoondays. It may never get down to 90F during the dark however, and the humidity makes mold a way of life. These are some of the poorest Elves in material standard of living. They say the heat makes ambition impossible. On Nightday evenings this city has the hottest sex scene in this basin, but even at that time of the week it will be a sweaty affair.
Klonznopft has a lot of Goblin and Orc in its heritage. Any structure is rough blocks covered with thick moss and lichen. It is stifling on Afternoondays and everything is damp, but finding enough water to get in may be a problem. The cuisine is not as interesting as in most areas of the planet, or even the remainder of this basin. This is one of the regions that gives the Hrrst basin the statistical pleasure of being the second poorest on the planet.
Leiosulfine is the center of a small region in the foothills of the Tanquetil. It has a much more highland climate with hot but not sweltering Afternoondays and brisk Dawnsleeps. There is no frost except in the higher hills to the south and east. There are all kinds of Elves in this region as well as Nordics and Dwarves and all combinations thereof.
For a normal human, the valley of Leiosulfine is like finding a Shangri-la in the middle of hell. The heat is never dangerous, the darks are even bracing. It is the second most prosperous part of the basin. There is data service in most towns. The inns are comfortable and have modern plumbing. It would be well worth the journey to see if it wasn't for the fact that it is an imitation of any valley in the New Midlands that you can reach using a day on a tube and a day on a coach.
Ttharmentodl is the center of Hotblood culture for the Hrrst basin. Only Hotbloods can survive here for any length of time, Afternoondays are over 120F (49C) and the cool of Dawnsleep might get down to 100F. The people of Ttharmentodl make an effort to have everything of Darceen available there. There are suntower connections between the two cities. Even though none of the cities involved have a tube system today, there is talk of a long line from Ttharmentodl to Darceen thru Hrrst, Pribilar and Illtale. This city is also a major port on the route from Hrrst to the Pwepspway across the east Ttharmine. Beacuse this is the only passage thru this area, it is quite busy in spite of the inhospitable climate. Providing survival services to non-hotbloods traversing the area is big business and it is expensive by Kassidorian standards.
The main reason someone from Centorin might want to visit this basin is the hunting on the Nitren and Tuurgarth plains. It is safer to approach them coming from the Zhlindu basin and going out of Ahngazeth. The people of that region consider themselves to be in the Zhlindu basin, and there is some sense to that because the culture and economy is much more like that of Zhlindu then Hrrst. Ahngazeth has lots of water power from the Imoneeya going over the Habith Fault, and more industry than any city of the Hrrst basin. There is night life like a small city in the Zhlindu basin, more than any in the Hrrst basin. There are outfitters and guides that can take you out into the prairies also. The same cautions for hunting in the Zhlindu basin apply to the plains of the southern Hrrst basin, with the added bonus that you can get a year's trek from civilization here, not just a few weeks.
Hrrst itself is a combination of all those cultures in a muddy swamp. Everything is small and tight but the city is endless. The only tall structures are along the main waterfronts. The Kimoneeya is remarkably narrow thru the heart of the city, just wide enough for the shipping traffic. In other places the rivers spread for miles. There are thousands of small canals and people have gondolas and pole rather than paddle kayaks. There are so few streets for a city of such size. If you don't own or can't afford to hire a gondola, you go a long ways out of your way and take rickety rope bridges over the canals. There are a few solid plankways, nowhere near as many as Trenst. Only along the main waterfronts are there multiple levels of them.
Most of the housing in the city is grown in hangleaves growing out of standing water, in that way it is like Trenst. Trenst is grown and grafted, like most of Kassidor, while much of Hrrst is sawed and planked. The trunks of Hrrst are much smaller and the upper floors sometimes only tent.
The main waterfronts are served by enormous ferries three stories high with staterooms, common areas with live music as well as food and drink. A voyage from one end of the urban area to the other can take as long as two weeks, and is one of the most stylish things to do in Hrrst. The ferries are towed by ropes and teams walking along the shore. You step on and off while they are moving.
Hrrst may actually be the poorest big city. Most of the people do not grow enough to eat from whatever patch of swamp they own. They can usually only fish from it and grow a form of water weed called 'tell' or 'big tell' that can be made into very tasty bread. Anything else in their diet is usually caught or found.
The average city resident can get to a place of employment a few times a year. It may take two days to pole his gondola to the main river, one of those days in the sun when it is over 110F in the shade. The traffic on the narrow canals is such that the gondolas clunk together like the start of a rubber-duck race.
Whether there are just no foundations for the factories or a shortage of engineers to design the machinery, there is little heavy or technical industry in Hrrst, less than Pribilar or Ttharmentodl. Most of the products of high technology or heavy industry sold on the docks of Hrrst are actually from Zhlindu or Ahngazeth.
Should you find yourself in the city of Hrrst, your main concern is staying wet and shaded for Afternoonday. The average summer Afternoonday in Hrrst is 118F (48C), in winter only about 110F (45C). The air is thick because you are two and a half miles below sea level.
During Nightday and Morningday, the heat may not reach dangerous levels and you can move around the city. The main passtime in the swamps of Hrrst is drinking and playing dice. You hear their rattle from half the huts near the canals. You also hear a lot of some of the old Goblin languages along with those dice. Not many lullabies and love songs are in the heritage of their languages. When strangers are playing, people in Hrrst have been known to cheat at dice.
Goblins and Hotbloods make up about half the population of the city, but if you go on the ridge you will see few of them. The homes will get steadily more stylish thru the first day of the hike. On the top of the ridge you will find surviving Afternoonday much easier, and the inns on the ridge are well equipped for it. They are also the only ones in the city with water-spray toilets.
During Dawnsleep it can be cool enough, especially on the ridge, to think about companionship. Don't try a Hotblood girl, she's 136 degrees inside, the problem should be obvious. The fact that she's bundled up for a snow storm while you're sweating in a clout should also provide a clue to the problem.
The urban parts of the Ttharmine ridge are close enough to standard Kassidorian society for you to find a companion in the same way. You'll find some pretty exotic looking people. They may have ancestry in the Goblin or Lorian Elf races, and the geneticists of Hrrst are noted for experimentation. There is a shade of turquoise skin that is popular among some, silver sparkles adorn some and there is a cult with big enough wings to glide across the average canal. Most of the people of the city but the Hotbloods are nude on Afternoonday. If a girl is interested in company she may even be nude during Nightday when the temperature in some parts of the city can get down to 80F (27C). They may be nude but they may wear lots of ornamentation such as tiaras and high lacy collars or cuffs. Lacy garters around the top of the thigh are popular and Hrrst is the only basin where you see many people without pubic hair.
In the lower and swampier parts of the city there are not sex clubs or much in the way of public taps other than the dice halls. Many of them only serve playing customers. There are some public eateries, but they have more the atmosphere of a soup kitchen than a place of entertainment.
You will have no problem finding companionship in these parts of the city either. They will come after you. Most are professionals, there are more in Hrrst than any other city on Kassidor. Over much of the swamp city, a Goblin type culture prevails and the women are not as free as in other parts of Kassidor. Because of that, some may not be professional, but be looking for a liaison with someone with the means to get them out of the area.
The most difficulty you can get into in Hrrst is trying to aide one of those women looking for a ride out of town when some important member of the neighborhood wants them to stay. The Instinct protects your person from harm, but does not protect your belongings. There is also a dangerous trick used in Hrrst. The Instinct does not prevent locking the door on someone who is in a space where he is not coming to harm at the present time. The Instinct does not force one to open the door to that space when the sun comes up and the heat of noon fries the occupant of that space. Getting locked out on a rooftop can, and does, happen.