The Viridian Maw. A great jungle, covering an entire penisula jutting from the Hegemony, unsullied by any form of civilization. The Maw has a nasty reputation, caused by the disappearances of those curious interlopers who thought to discover what lies within. Whispers speak of great monsters and savage barbarians that roam beneath the jungle’s green canopy, eager to feast upon the would-be adventurers and conquerors who seek to claim her for their own. And many have tried, for though there exist as many tales of the jungle’s monstrous inhabitants, there are just as many tales of the wondrous, golden ruins, that supposedly lie at the Maw’s center. The Shining City is what the common folk call it, though the scholars prefer the unpronounceable title of Ulighuananque (Ooh-Lig-Wah-Nan-Kay). Supposedly, Ulighuananque was a great city-state that ruled the jungle and was rich in gold and gems, before dying off long before the humanoid races came to rule the world. Now the jungle is home to savages, monsters, and criminals, but no tales of anyone finding the Shining City.
Not for lack of trying, however. There are a few accounts of brave men who attempted to navigate the jungle. The first (known) attempt was by the ancient Mantinan explorer Ibn Othmiallo, who sought to scout the region for Hegemony settlement and conquest. Luckily, thanks to his usage of messenger birds, a great deal of his travels were intact. It is from Othmiallo that the phrase “Viridian Maw” was coined, as was his division of the jungle into three zones, The Lips, The Teeth, and The Throat. The Lips were the edges, accessible through the Hegemony border, or by the peninsula craggy shores and cliffs, where fleets of ships were known to be sunk. Othmiallo managed to chart out part of the Lips, but upon entering the Teeth, Othmiallo noted many monstrous beasts made their nest as well as “savage folk whose fires and tents see in the distance at night.” Othmiallo did not elaborate on this point, as his messages suddenly stopped. This led to the first invasion of the Maw by Hegemony scouts, who reported finding the bloody skeletons of Othmiallo’s party piled up at the edge of the teeth. Of the twenty-one scouts who entered, only four managed to survive the Maw. Encounters with monsters caused the party to die like flies, as well as “large barbarians who strike at night with poisoned arrows before disappearing into the forest.” Of the four scouts who survived, one succumbed to sickness contracted in the jungle, another was slain in the Free States, one was an illiterate who could not commit his words to paper, and the last was an alcoholic bard called Red Iannis, whose tendency towards self-aggrandizement has made many recent scholars question the veracity of his work. In particular, he wrote of voices in the night, demanding homage to one “Lord Who Rules The Maw,” just prior to the slaughter of his comrades.
Othmiallo and Red Iannis’s notes, do overlap in certain regards, but their sketches only map out parts of the Lips and the Teeth. Further attempts, to conquer the region were made, but none successful. A Tangoran treasure hunter named Azaga managed to find a small, abandoned gold mine, but was unfortunate to discover that it was home to a monster’s nest (his journal was later recovered by Hegemony scouts). The Falakite pilgrim Blood Upon Steel, is believed to have ventured deeper than any previous adventurer, but his accounts were passed down orally among the Elven tribes and thus are harder to verify. Like Red Iannis, they also tell of monstrous “Night Whisperers,” who slaughter dishonorably at night, and who bow to a “Jungle God of Terror” (Rough translation of Elvish secondhand accounts). Blood Upon Steel himself was slain with his entire warband in his second journey to the region, making the Maw a favored site for young, hotshot Falakites to prove their strength. No reports, however, exist of any returning and some explorers note that more savvy Falakite leaders often encourage their enemies or incompetent allies to make a pilgrimage, as some Falakites suspect that Blood’’s brother Music Upon Steel was said to have done (although this is a point of contention among some tribes and still grounds for an honor duel).
The Hegemony made three more attempts at conquering the Maw, the first led by the explorer Zarafino, that disappeared entirely without record, the second, an actual invasion led by the Grand Araph Tashim al-Gurad that fell to plague, causing an era of succession crisis and quarantine in the Hegemony known as “The Black Years,” and a third led by one Captain Paoletto that ended prematurely after the Diamante family redeployed him to caravan duties in the South. His lieutenant Kariggio and the rest of the party was slaughtered in a skirmish with the unseen barbarians, without any word sent back. Hwa-Fong made a number of abortive expeditions into the Maw, under the famed Mage-Admiral Wo-Ju-Fung, and Fongese sources demonstrate a great knowledge of the cliffs and shores of the Southern half of the peninsula (albeit less about the interior of the jungle though). Wo-Ju-Fung’s attempts to map the jungle ended in failure when his fleet ran afoul of the infamous Dragonborn pirate, Sarkis Seaflame, who ran his fleet from the Southern shores. Seaflame’s slaughter of the Fongese fleet represented a new stage in the Maw’s history, as many slavers, pirates, and criminals made the Lips their home. When Seaflame was eventually captured by Hegemony privateers, he revealed that he was in service to one who called himself “The Lord Who Rules The Maw.” Before he could reveal more, however, he was found hanged in his cell. Seaflame is not the only criminal spotted in the region, as necromancers and slave traders have been captured or killed on the border. Often however, they choose to keep silent or die in captivity before they can be questioned fully. Between the monstrous things in the Teeth, and the criminals living in the Lips, very few folk have been able to visit the mysterious region known as The Throat of the Maw, where some suspect is where the Shining City of Ulighuananque may be located. Though very few people seek to try any more, for fear of this legendary “Lord Who Rules The Maw,” whatever it might be.