The Beyond is a very Steadfast-centric term, used essentially to describe any area of the world that isn’t part of the nine kingdoms. As the scope of the world known and understood by even the most learned scholars in the Steadfast is limited, however, what the Beyond technically includes are the lands south of the Caecilian Jungle, west of the Clock of Kala, and north of the Southern Wall.
The Beyond can be broken down into several principal regions:
To the north of the Steadfast, beyond the Tithe River, float the Cloudcrystal Skyfields. These ever-growing crystalline shards slowly drift high above a plain of the shattered remnants of shards that fell. Some of the shards are as large as cities, and others are as small as a fist. Many consider this area a holy land of sorts. Some so-called sorcerers and priests contend that the crystals are the perfect foci for magical power; oracles supposedly watch the future here; gods speak to mortals more clearly and often, thanks to the shards. However, most people recognize this arid landscape to be—holy or not—an inhospitable wasteland, particularly in the eastern portion of the region. Dangerous creatures roam the expanse beneath the skyfields, including a variety of bandits, abhumans, jiraskars, and travonis ul.
A great, dark mountain range that is the primary natural division between the Steadfast and the Beyond, the Black Riage is a place of both difficulty and danger. The inhabitants of villages scattered throughout its expanse are trappers or herders of rock goats or similar creatures. A wide variety of abhuman tribes also dwell in the mountains. Three main passes lead through the Black Riage, although other, secret passages exist as well. The main routes—Tremble Pass, Cerdyn’s Pass, and Garl Nave—offer caravans and travelers the means to cross the mountains without undue difficulty, although the paths are steep and sometimes narrow. In the winter, all three become very dangerous, and the southern two are almost certainly blocked, leaving Tremble Pass as the only possibly clear passage through the region.
Woods. Water. Wind. Rain. These attributes define the Caecilian Jungle. Other people use harsher words. Death. Destruction. Monsters. Madness. Covering more than 500 square miles, the Caecilian Jungle is dense with trees, underbrush, rivers, fog, and rain. Natural and mechanical creatures stalk its depths. Why go at all, then? Why enter its dark borders and risk life, limb, and sanity? The jungle has treasures to be found, ancient gods to be awoken, and wonders to be discovered. Despite the fact that there are no known reports of anyone returning from a visit to the Caecilian, believers continue to plan expeditions to its tangled innards. Makeshift camps have sprung up at various points around the edges of the jungle, typically created by people who canceled their trek at the last minute. They sell jungle maps that point out the locations of various gods and features, but every map is different from camp to camp. Explorers can also purchase great quantities of tifo fruits, a bitter podfruit that is extolled for its ability to calm nerves.
A large, sprawling region, the Plains of Kataru stretch from the southern end of the Caecilian Jungle to the northern edge of the Ba-Adenu Forest. The northernmost part of the plains are somewhat arid, but the rolling flatlands farther south are fertile and temperate. Wild herds of swift espron and plodding reptilian camethosaurs roam the plains, preyed upon by callerail, ithsyn, and pallones. There are no cities on the plains, but small towns and aldeia, mostly farming communities, dot the landscape. The farmers grow wheat, beans, and vegetables of all kinds. Most of these small communities are self-sufficient, but occasionally trade with caravans from the Steadfast that travel across the Black Riage on their way to Augur-Kala. But these are rare. There are also nomadic tribes of human hunters that erect temporary villages of hide tents and yurts on the plains. These tribes tame the espron and ride them as mounts. Some of the nomads have turned to raiding more settled communities and even other tribes. Terrible storms sometimes cross the Plains of Kataru, particularly in the spring. Cyclones, fierce hail, flash floods, and lightning strikes are serious dangers.
The land of Dessanedi is a mostly barren field of broken, jagged glass that lies south of the Great Slab, north of the Plains of Kataru, and west of the Clock of Kala. Although paths lead through the aptly named Jagged Wastes, travel in this region is slow, arduous, and filled with cuts and scrapes—or worse. Underfoot, traversable paths are nothing but tiny shards of glass. On either side stand outcroppings of serrated edges and razor points. If the Jagged Wastes weren’t the only way to reach the pass called the Sheer, it’s unlikely anyone would ever come here. Scholars suspect that at some point in the distant past, the sand-swept dunes of Dessanedi were turned to glass, perhaps through intense heat. Time has broken and shattered the glass, making the wasteland very difficult to cross. Nothing grows in the Jagged Wastes, and other than a few scavenger birds, little lives there, making it at least a quiet journey. The significant communities are found on the very edge of the wastes, in regions that might technically be considered part of the Plains of Kataru.
This vast forest encompasses such a large area of the Beyond that it has at least three distinct climates within its leafy borders. The southwestern area, which hedges the Black Riage, is dry and crisp. Winds whistle between the tops of the tallest trees, swaying their branches far above the ground. Trees topple regularly here, and a call of “Crackling!” is common among those who live in the wilds. Explorers can expect to find herds of stondels and breslings here, as well as laak and winged creatures of all shapes, sizes, and colors. This area, which includes the city of Ephremon, is the most densely populated section of the forest. Most people dwell in curved huts built from stone bricks. The middle section is a dense jungle, thick with underbrush and canopy levels that rise toward the sky and house many wild creatures. The air is so heavy with moisture that water drips from the trees, keeping the ground—and any who walk along it—damp at all times. Most small to medium creatures live high in the trees, hoping to escape the large carnivores that slink and stalk along the moist forest floor. Here travelers find the large wall known Padun, as well as the city of Druissi. The southeastern tip of the Ba-Adenu Forest, which turns to swamps and bogs, is populated with snags and borgrove trees. Here, both the air and the ground are still and wet. A false step could land someone throat-deep in a stickybog or at the mercy of a hungry caiman that had appeared to be a dead log. Camouflage is the name of the game, and most creatures are difficult to see among the mud and muck. The Untethered Legion thrives in this part of the forest, a further plague to all who wish to cross through the area.
A shockingly flat lowland region, thought (erroneously) to be dry and lifeless, Errid Kaloum is in fact a shallow salt lake that has formed a thick crust over its surface, an extension of the Sere Marica. Throughout the otherwise level, monotonous landscape, occasional mounds rise like islands in a sea. The comparison is apt, because these mounds are, indeed, islands in the salt lake. Each island is surprisingly fertile and lush, even for the climate, for two reasons. First, they’re formed due to geothermic activity below the lake, and thus they’re warmer than the general area by about 5 to 10 degrees. Second, some of the mineral structures forced up through the salt lake to form the mounds also serve as a powerful desalinizing filter. In other words, within each island is a reserve of fresh water. Thus, the islands are fertile and covered with plants and animals. A few host small communities of human hunters and gatherers who travel across the salt flats in large wagons pulled by salt-crusted therish oxen. Many of these settlements follow the gory religion of Lhauric, but without priests who can communicate with the Challifani, their version has simply become bloodletting and murder for its own sake. Other villages reject these practices but have to fend off raids from what they call the blood-folk, who continually hunt for victims.
Along the southern border of the Beyond rest two bodies of water, connected by a channel called the Imoros Strait. One body—Sere Marica—is heavy with blue salts. The other—Navae Marica—has enough fresh water to sustain the entire population of the Beyond for years. The two inland seas are so unlike in every way that they might as well be situated a world apart. At 1,600 miles (2,575 km) across and 1,500 feet deep, Sere Marica is more than twice the size of her sister. The source of Sere Marica’s salt is something of a mystery, for the water that enters the sea from the surrounding rivers and through the Imoros Strait is fresh water, changing only when it reaches the Sere. Creatures of many sizes and colors live in the lake, from the gigantic and aggressive cerulean octopi to the barely visible duandas, floating bubblefish that attempt to implant themselves in openings on a body. The cultural sensibility of Sere Marica is as varied as its creatures. Salachia, the Salt City, is buried deep beneath the surface of the lake, and the Salted Marshes lie along the northwestern shore. Many of those who live along and within the Sere Marica depend on salt for sustenance and daily living. One thing noticeably missing from the Sere Marica area is mechanical beings. The salt is too harsh on them, rusting and corroding their internal and external elements without remorse. Travelers in the area, especially those who plan to enter the water, would be wise to protect any technologies, including prosthetics and artifacts. The much smaller and shallower Navae Marica is a source of fresh water, fish, and game for all who live near it. Many who dwell on the shores are boaters and divers. Here, towns focus on turning the numenera into diving equipment, portable flotation devices, and various forms of water transports.
Stretching for more than 200 miles across a mostly open plain, the Amorphous Fields churn, twist, and undulate in dangerous, unpredictable, and unsettling ways. The fields are a strange mixture of rock and earth that moves and churns almost like a semisolid substance, with pockets of organic soup that occasionally harden into a solid or semisolid form, making the region a place where organic and inorganic masses undulate together. It goes without saying that the fields are extremely difficult and dangerous to cross. With no warning, the ground at your feet can turn to pools like quicksand, rise up with a sudden thrust, or open like a yawning chasm. Explorers who have spent time here speculate that the Amorphous Fields are actually a solid or semisolid crust over a viscous sea of organic liquids. A few suggest that the region is a single living entity. No normal plants grow in the Amorphous Fields, but here and there clouds of fungal spores find purchase on a solid or semisolid surface and quickly grow into bulbous gardens of fruiting bodies found nowhere else in the world. Some of these are poisonous, but a few have valuable medicinal effects. Understandably, hardly any people or creatures live in the area. However, the region does have a few natives, most notably the ligoshi, which appear to be house-sized, bioluminescent jellyfish that swim in the liquid soup beneath the ground and emerge when the crust breaks or opens into a semisolid pool. The ligoshi near the surface produce lighter-than-air gasses so that when they burst forth, they float into the air, sometimes for hours at a time. Although they subsist on the organic materials found here, they seem to enjoy wrapping their long, paralyzing tentacles around creatures from other realms who have wandered into the wrong place. A small number of hardy human settlements exist on patches of continuously stable ground, like islands in the churning soup. These people know (mostly) safe routes across the fields and hunt the ligoshi as well as gather the valuable fungus that grows here. Most outsiders consider them insane.
The land of Seshar is an extension of Matheunis, the Cold Desert, but two factors set it apart. First, it was originally a separate kingdom ruled from what had been its capital, Nebalich. The ruling family could not sustain its holdings, however, and the kingdom collapsed more than 250 years ago. Second, Seshar’s length and breadth are marked by a series of canals, which date back to the prior worlds and are arranged in a mysterious, almost mazelike pattern. The canals are all deep and regular, with smooth, 50-foot escarpments on either side, often showing baroque embellishments and even graven images. The people of Seshar simply call them canals or rivers and regard them as if they were natural. The canals are vital to Seshar’s well-being. Small barges and ships allow trade between the villages of the region. These villages are built on the high embankments of ancient design, or they nestle in clefts cut into the side of the embankments. As you move away from the canals, the land becomes arid and lifeless other than scorpions, insects, and the occasional desert bloom. Margr, however, are a real scourge in the area, and raiding marauders pose a serious threat. Thankfully, they rarely come too close to the canals.
Wild and untamed, the vast region south and east of the Steadfast, stretching from the coast of the ocean to the edge of Seshar, is known as Matheunis. Some call it the Cold Desert. For the most part, it’s a dry land of stone and sparse vegetation. Large black carrion birds fly overhead, looking for creatures that have strayed too far from safety in this realm of little sustenance. Over the last fifty years or so, many folk from the Steadfast have moved south to villages free of empires and kings. Of course, this growth has influenced some rulers, such as the Empress of Pytharon, to begin to look southward with interest. Free of large cities other than Nihliesh, Matheunis is dotted with isolated aldeia that keep to themselves almost to the point of xenophobia. The people of the land are herders and subsistence farmers. One of the most common types of produce raised is ice candles, a melonlike fruit that grows better in cold temperatures rather than warm. Matheunis is also the domain of many dangerous beasts and marauding abhuman tribes, particularly margr and murden. For reasons unknown, the region has far more than its share of mutants. One thing that many Matheunis folk share is a fascination with drakka, insects that grow to 1 foot in length. Drakka are similar to bluebottle flies but a bit more intelligent, and they can be captured and domesticated as pets. Some people use drakka to help herd the brown-wooled umlan goats or as watch animals trained to alert their masters to signs of trouble spied from on high.
Though residents of the Steadfast tend to consider anything outside the bounds of the Nine Kingdoms to comprise “The Beyond”, there are farther reaching territories that even the Beyond does not include.