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Though most of the populated area of this is shown on the Highlands map, it is not part of the Highlands. Instead it is an ancient and varied land that has been devastated by the growth of the lake. This basin also contains the largest polar plain on the planet and two of the largest magma upwellings.
Most of the basin is deep, Sridotn is close to four miles below sea level and is frost free though it is relatively far north. Most of the polar plain is more than two miles below sea level, parts of it are just over four.
Until modern times the basin was home to a large ocean that was frozen to the icecap north of the Black Mountains. The sea once battered the rugged foothills of the Black Mountains and carried the ships from seaports in the Old Kingdoms to those in the Old North. The northern edge of habitation today is just about the old seacoast. Sridotn would have been fifty miles out to sea and under a mile of water.
Today the basin retains what water it can and the flow down the Dolostel River has returned to what it was. All the water is used for irrigation today. In Sridotn there is no precipitation, the only water outdoors is irrigation water and it is usually applied with a drip system. Household water is recycled.
On what were once the western and southern shores of the sea, centered on the Old Kingdoms, there is adequate rainfall and in the Old Kingdoms some wild forest does survive. Even there they are not as extensive as they once were and not only because they were felled for the fires of the Old Kingdom's factories.
What were once the great forests of the north, where many a valiant warrior of legend camped and took game, there is now only coarse sand and gravel. The stones of many legendary royal halls stand gaunt in the wind. The area still has the seasonal climate it did in days of old, but it is dry at all times of the year and there are hundreds of thousands of square miles of former forest with no macroscopic life at all.
The basin floor today is a middle deep, much like the Zhlindu Basin in climate with mild seasons and mild weeks. Winter darks can get into the forties fahrenheit, summer Afternoondays might touch forty centigrade. There is never precipitation during the light at any time of the year. Agriculture requires irrigation. Four great canals cross the basin floor and many smaller ones branch out from them.
In the foothills of the Black Mountains there is a temperate rain forest which is the source of half the basin's irrigation water. The towns in that area are subject to frost during winter darks, but were not during ancient times when the sea lapped their shore.
The Sigstrom Mountains are also subject to frost most darks. Most of them are too dry for life to survive, but there is enough to feed the biggest and most vicious coriax on the planet. They are striped with brilliant gold and bronze, there is no mistaking their fur.
Two of the planet's largest fissure eruptions are in this basin. They are the Black Mountains and Engilad's Wall. The Black Mountains are about two hundred million years old. The peaks are twenty to thirty thousand feet above sea level. The foothills are tumbled obsidian and lava masses. Life has cloaked the moist side all the way to the glaciers on the peaks. Engilad's Wall still smoulders and balloon missions have detected fresh lava on the summits. The vents are nearly forty thousand feet above sea level. The sides are tangled basalts where hardly any life has found a foothold. It rises abruptly out of the polar plain so that it is visible above the atmosphere long before the base can be seen thru the atmosphere.
The polar plain is too big for a human to comprehend. You can spend year after year treking west and see nothing but a nearly flat and empty plain covered with hardy ribbonleaves and rinko with herds of scamp and wooly mrang, wooly thongga, and packs of snow hakkens. The climate is not as monotonous as the polar plains north of Dzintiss and Tthmuurng because it is not as deep. Summer Afternoondays get pleasantly warm. Summer Dawnsleeps do not get frost, so the fast onion can survive in this area. Winter Afternoondays get above freezing, maybe even to 50F (10C), winter Dawnsleeps get below zero F (-18C).
On this plain live numerous tribes of Trolls. They are very widely separated, in ancient times they might not see others for generations. They are not hostile to outsiders so that almost none are still ephemeral. Because they roam over four million square miles, there are several million of them.
The basin has both wet and dry tundra. The wet tundra is waterlogged mud, similar to that found in the Dzintiss basin. There are different species in this basin because they have to survive frost in winter. The dry tundra is not as waterlogged as the wet tundra, but it is still mud much of the year. There is quite a bit of rainfall on the Durlegar slopes, and in the low temperatures evaporation is slow. The ground cover plants are good at conserving soil moisture, no soil goes uncovered, and the lonoid species can grow to make a nearly air-tight seal. There are different species on the dry and the wet tundra. A faint difference in color marks the boundary.
This basin has a long and colorful history. We don't need to furnish many details here because many histories of events in this basin are available in the popular press.
In prehistory three regions of the basin were habitable, the Old Kingdoms, The Black Mountain Foothills and the shores of the Old North. Nordics and Dwarves were most common in the Old North, Elves inhabited the other two areas.
There were two different waves of Elvish settlement. The first was deep in prehistoric times, as early as 10,000bc. It is believed they arrived from the north of the Korst basin via a sea passage that used to go thru the rift between the Icewind and Pentuush Wastes. Some artifacts have been found that indicate they may have made contact with residents of the Old North. They did not settle there but somehow crossed the sea to the Black Mountain shore. The Black Mountains were still home to an immense keda conclave at the time. There is no record of how it was done, but archeology shows that by 6000bc the kedas were out of the conclave and the Elves were in it.
Those people became the Dark Elves. They are actually more closely related to the Korst and Dzintiss Goblins, but they are tall and slender with very dark skins. They were the most warlike of all Elvish peoples, indeed of all Yondurian peoples, and developed bare-handed martial arts to the highest forms it ever had on Kassidor (but nothing compared to the ancient Pacific rim of Asia on Earth). They developed a civilization of a sort, underground in the old conclave. They built ships and terrorized the nations of the Old North. There were repeated attempts to crush the Dark Elves but none were successful at even breaching their underground cities.
The second wave of Elvish settlement took place in Kassidor's fourth century (5019bc - 4790bc). It was started by an expedition out of one of the nations of Thule sound during the early years of civilization in the Elven Old Lands. The expedition had crossed many years of desert and scrubland, all of it subject to weekly frosts. They had run out of dried onions and were starting to take sick when they found watercourses heading downhill far to the north of any known lands, and eventually reached the southern shore of the Salvador Sea. Their journals say they intended to replenish their supplies and make their way back. That never happened.
There were women on the expedition. Children had already been born. Some grandchildren of the original expedition were later sent out to return word to the motherland of the new land they had found here. No record or remains of that expedition have ever been found. By the time the original expedition members had died, there was no more interest in the motherland.
The colony had it's hands full here. The fourth generation was still in diapers when they saw the dragon ships of the Dark Elves off their shore. Though the distance was nearly as great as the Viking's sail to North America, the fledgling colonies of the Old Kingdoms began to suffer raids by the Dark Elves.
The Wood Elves from Thulia had the advantage of a much more advanced technology, crossbows instead of spears and pikes, launchers capable of throwing large stones to ships several hundred yards offshore. What they didn't have was the attackers disregard of death and dismemberment. It was generations before they had the advantage of numbers.
The Elves of the southern shore had no real check on their numbers. They usually had tiny babies so all mothers lived and two thirds of the children. In this empty and fertile land they averaged over twelve children. When you consider that an Elf woman may have a hundred Earth years of childbearing, the accounts of some having forty children may be true.
Though the expedition arrived with only twenty six people, they never lost their literacy, they practiced efficient agriculture, they kept an organized economy, and as soon as there was population, there was a kingdom named after the leader of the expedition. In those days the Elves never had large empires, so each child who wanted land of his own set out either eastward along the coast or west up the Dolostel river. By the time the 10th century came to a close (4560bc) there were seven recognized kingdoms and nearly three million people. By 4000bc the remainder of the basin recognized the Old Kingdoms as the most advanced civilizations of the basin.
Before the Energy Age the Dark Elves had destroyed most of their civilization in struggles against each other. Many of them began to leave their land, few were welcome in other lands. The Nordics and the Dwarves had progressed to civilization in the Old North and picked up many customs from the Elves of the south. The culture of the Dark Elves has all but died out, and none of its ways are present in the basin today.
Illewe passed this region by, he may not have known of it's existence. The glideway went up the middle of what is now North Lake, there was no hint at the time that there is anything but more desert to the northwest when one is that far away. Maps of the time show the Dolostel flowing out to a sink in the sand. The Sigstroms and the Pentuush restrict the flow of moisture into the Highlands so moisture reached only as far as Dolostel at the time.
It wasn't till spacecraft were launched that the basin was discovered. Expeditions were sent. They were warmly received within what is now Dolostel which was the site of three large monasteries and a village at the time. The kings received emissaries cordially also but declined to become part of the Empire. Negotiations were ongoing even as The Fall began. When the military seized power they endeavored to end the haggling with military force. They were met by the Combined Force of the Southern Kingdoms in the narrow pass just east of Dolostel. That force was every bit as modern and well equipped as those of Dempala. Dempala was not able to carry the day. The Dempalan troops holed up in the monasteries and remained there thru the remainder of The Fall.
The kingdoms were as dependent on tallgrains as the Old Lands, the pall covered most of them. The population was devastated, the survivors lived in ruins for centuries. The Old North and the Black Mountains were hurt less by The Fall. Thru the Troubled Times those lands were once again the center of civilization in the basin. Many ancient weapons had found their way into the basin, along with the technology for military mutants. Much has been written of those times and places.
Few in this basin attended the funeral of a petty king far up in the hills, but it was the most important event in their history. The thicker air after The Fall carried more moisture into the Highlands but till then it all ran back down the Dolostel. With the death of King Zharvai, a dam started there on the Dolostel would lead to the drying of the river in two centuries. By the time of the Peace Plague, people began to notice the seashore receding.
The governments of the north collapsed as soon as the rains did. By 1000ad, there were very few hold-outs still living there. The governments of the southern kingdoms all held out in one way or another. Today they all survive as road companies and their only real income is the tips people leave the guys working on the road. All thru the forties they retained other powers, especially import-export taxes. Their last armed forces were customs enforcers.
After 1000ad the sea was gone and the former seabed has been re-settled by people from the Highlands. In many cases these are the same individuals who came from the kingdoms of the south or even the Old North when the ocean dried out. Sridotn is one of the newest cities on Kassidor, most of the ruins of America are older. In 2000ad there were 18,000 people, mainly in boats, making a living distilling things out of the ooze at the far end of today's Dolostel River.
Today this is not the most different culture on Kassidor, but it is the most different you can get to in less than a year. You can take the tube to Entisonggass in one long day, from there you can get a nice river boat down the Entisonggass River to the Dolostel and down that to today's city of Dolostel, a little over 600 miles by air, a little over a thousand as the river flows, and less than half a local year in time.
In Dolostel you'll find completely different styles of stonework following a much older tradition. You'll find signs in two languages, though only Kassidorian is still spoken. The kingdoms of the south each had their own spoken language, but a single written language looking something like seismograph traces. To be able to read it is to be considered very cultured. Learning it is a unique experience. Because there is no spoken language, it is silent. The culture is full of secret societies, and they all know this written language and one of the ancient spoken languages. People may test you in a language and move on if you don't know it.
There's a strong custom of fealty, this was as true in the north as the south. Friends are very loyal in this basin, deep friendship is harder to win than in the Highlands. The difference between urban and rural is a lot more pronounced. People who do work for money in villages seldom have gardens. True farmers tease them about it. A true farmer doesn't need to take city work. In the irrigated lands of the basin floor agricultural technology reaches its highest development in human space.
This is the basin of the lute and fiddle musically. Hand drums are common but bands that use them are considered heavy. There is music of other basins available and local musicians that imitate it, but even in Dolostel which is on the front steps of the Highlands, you'll probably hear a fiddle at dinner, maybe a harmonica with it. You will become hypnotized if you aren't careful.
If you want someone warm to sleep with, you will find you are no longer in the Highlands. There are no sex clubs as such. One usually asks, discreetly, during day-to-day life. Either sex can ask, and if you aren't hideous and stay in Dolostel long enough you'll hear a quiet, "Excuse me but are you with someone this sleep?" when you are least expecting it.
There are plenty of public taps, they tend to be a bit rowdy, and both sexes are equally represented. You're a little LESS likely to hear that question at one, and the woman is a little more likely to be on her guard than at a produce market for instance. But you'll find plenty of conversation, and if that conversation is with one or more women, one may follow you out to ask you, or you may follow her if she leaves first. If she looks you over when leaving you can be pretty confident the answer will be 'yes' if you follow her out and ask.
The irrigation canals are wide and also used for transportation. The canal boats can be pretty luxurious and you can have a very nice time seeing more of the basin than Dolostel. Beware that the trip from Dolostel to Sridotn takes well over a local year.
Sridotn is a trading and business center. There is no water power and only modest amounts of cordwood, so it is not an industrial center. If you take that year traveling to Sridotn, you'll find that it is a little more like the Highlands than Dolostel, but certainly more like Dolostel than the Highlands. The city now has close to seven million urban residents, all on man-made islands in the network of canals the Dolostel has become in it's last few hundred miles. The climate is similar to but a little cooler than Zhlindu. The city looks more like Hrrst than Zhlindu because there is little stone or crystal, but has a cultural scene more on par with Trastrab or Borlunth, but with the haunting lute and fiddle music you first heard in Dolostel.