City of Tsatraya
Tsatraya was the crown jewel of Lake Bykaal’s settlements during the Age of Myth, and the last to fall during the Age of Chaos. Built in architectural styles from across the Mortal Realms, it was once dominated by glittering spires of white marble and green-copper peaked roofs. The city itself is largely comprised of innumerable closely-packed buildings divided by narrow, winding streets.
As the servants of the Dark Gods lay claim to Lake Bykaal during the Age of Chaos, many refugees from around the lake and beyond fled to Tsatraya. They say when it became clear the city would fall, the huddled, starving masses within the walls of the Kozul Redoubt chose to throw themselves off Uyar Point than be taken alive by the servants of Chaos. Because these tortured souls did not die at sea, they can find no rest within Lake Bykaal’s waters; the local beastmen whisper of how they rise from the lake’s surface each night and scour the city of those who despoiled it.
Today, Tsatraya is as important as it is deadly. Were the lighthouse atop Uyar Point to be re-lit, it would provide a beacon of navigation and communication across the entire lake. That said, the cliffside approaches are narrow and treacherous, and the dense, tumbled-down streets ripe for ambushes and running skirmishes.
Rumor has it at least one Soulbound binding is active within the city, but the purpose they may serve is nothing more than speculation.
The Stone Crop
A graveyard that seems to be growing. The Stone Crop gravestones and mausoleums very slowly appear, over weeks and months, pushing upwards through the musty earth and shouldering-aside the previous stones and graves, spilling the grave goods and remains of some. It is said the names of the dead of Bykaal are inscribed there, in a thousand forgotten languages. Mourners used to come to pay their respects here. Whether the souls of the dead, out in the lake, still hear any prayers, nobody knows anymore.
An ancient and disused indoor market square with a huge domed roof, that now is full of cracks and holes. Snow and ice encrusts the masonry of the once-busy market stalls. Something dark and hungering lurks within.
Temples of Mourning
This cluster of white marble and green copper-domed temples was the central gathering point for the worship of Nagash around Bykaal – they are the only buildings that look as they did in the Age of Myth. But there is more to it than just good maintenance by the devoted. There is a small team of skeletal craftsmen working every night cleaning, repairing, repainting and polishing. They are even said to be willing to repair the possessions of locals if they are reverently left overnight after worship.
The site of hundreds of executions in the Age of Myth and thousands of sacrifices in the Age of Chaos, the Old Square is considered cursed and avoided by anyone with sense.
Sailing and money have always gone hand and hand, and this district drew its name from the preponderance of wealthy businessmen who built their homes there. The heart of the Coins is the Ebonvaults chapterhouse, part of a vast Chamonic banking system that backed coin with realmstone. The building is very sturdy, with many magical and mundane protections set upon it.
Uyar Point & Kozul Redoubt
Uyar Point is the highest peak along Lake Bykaal’s shore, and Kozul Redobut sits astride it. The greatest fortification for a hundred leagues, the Redobut’s tallest spire houses a lighthouse whose beacon can be seen from any point on the lake when lit. The Redoubt’s southern wall ends at the waterfront, where there is a sheltered stone quay, originally built to deliver supplies directly to the bastion.
The second highest point of the cliffs at the edge of the lake after Uyar Point. Local legend tells of the partners of lost mariners who (depending on who is telling the tale) either threw themselves off the cliff in grief, or waited endlessly looking out for their lost love to return.
A shanty town of tiny hovels made from the flotsam and jetsam from the lake. Most of the miserable shacks have upturned boats as roofs. The lase place in the city where nominally normal folk still live, the morose and sunken-cheeked residents stick to themselves and are extremely suspicious. Why they scratch a living just on the outside of desolate Tsatraya, instead of sheltering within the large buildings, is a mystery they do not speak of.
From the Shyish side the Realmgate looks like a vast, swirling maelstrom on the surface of the waters, hundreds of yards wide. But where natural waterfalls appear to be falling downward the Ghyrplunge flows in both directions – a rushing torrent of warm waters flows out from it, down into the inland sea of Bykaal, and cold waters from Shyish race up the mountainside as a mind-bending reversed waterfall.
The journey through the gate from Ghyran to Shyish is highly disconcerting to unwary travelers who have never made the crossing before; ships sailing through the gate look like they pitch at first, cresting the edge of the portal and dropping almost vertically then slamming down into the lake and righting themselves, without the slightest splash. To those aboard it feels like their vessel suddenly pitches downwards with a stomach-churning lurch, the horizon races up before them as they pass the plane of the gate. Once through, the air around them is suddenly chill and the surface of the great lake is calm again. Not even a drop of rum in a glass on the captain’s table will be spilled though!
The return journey from Shyish to Ghyran feels relatively sedate by comparison; ships still perform stomach-churning maneuvers, pitching upwards as they sail into the bottom of the Ghyrplunge and up the waterfall, but the trip is slower and less disconcerting. It doesn’t feel like your ship is about to be dashed to smithereens!
Tomb of Salt
A mountain of salt allegedly encrusting the brothers Boso and Orbo, two swashbuckling heroes of yore whose bodies and souls Nagash could not- or would not- claim. The salt-snow of Bykaal landed upon their corpses, melting from the warmth of their unclaimed life energy but crystallizing the salt. No undead can touch the mountain, although spirits swirl around it menacingly. Those who attempt to disturb the tomb find the salt to be hard as Hyshian diamond.
Jackrattle’s Logging Camp
Jackrattle is a giant lumberjack who endlessly harvests the woods. Strangely jolly for a lumbering corpse, Jackrattle finds himself in constant conflict with the lake’s local Dreadwood wargrove of Sylvaneth. These malicious spirits can be recognized by the skulls of the dead embedded in their faces; it is said their soul-pods were planted inside the skulls before they were “born”.
Cairn of the Pale Saint
The cairn is hallowed ground for the Flesh-Eater Courts among the Pilgrimage, who claim the Abhorrent known as the Pale Saint was martyred there by the dogs of Sigmar.
Old Dyunsk was the first of the settlements along the lake’s shore after Gorkamorka slew the Ur-Whale. Although the entire ruin is more ancient and primitive than Lake Bykaal’s other settlements, its very oldest structures are clearly Azyric in origin, and appear to have neither been breached nor particularly ill-effected by the intervening millennia since they were build.
Of course, none of this has done anything to dissuade the persistent rumors that Old Dyunsk defends a Stormvault once concealed beneath the waters of Lake Bykaal- but no matter how many adventurers go looking for it, none have admitted to finding it… or seem willing to make a second attempt.
Dogmeat the Friend
A nomadic, cannibalistic warband who ride dogsleds and scour the forests around Bykaal in search of the finest meat, which resides in the skull, ribcage, and marrow of… mostly intelligent beings. The larger cuts are offered to their sled dogs, some of which are very clearly Chaos warhounds and the alphas among them nothing less than Flesh Hounds of Khorne. That said, they are really a very social tribe, if insanely unpredictable. “Dogmeat” himself punctuates every sentence with “friend”, gaining himself the moniker.
Kyady’s Gate (realmgate)
Recently rediscovered, Kyady’s gate leads elsewhere in Shyish and has become a key route by which armies have arrived from across the Realm of Death.
Sobolev’s road (impassable)
This paved, water-level path once linked Old Dyunsk with Tsatraya, but centuries of erosion and salt-ice buildup have made it functionally useless.
Town of Bolyany
Once a small farming community around a central market-town hub, Bolyany was sparsely populated but always busy, farmer’s wagons pouring into its market square every day and traders from all around the lake would coming to buy produce. The root crops were withered and meagre by any standard, but still superior to any grown elsewhere around the lake. Local tribes-folk now inhabit the place, a twisted husk of what it once was but still growing some form of crop, namely blood-red sour beets and extremely large varieties of hideous turnip, and pretty much the only source of food around the lake. The sullen masked people whisper prayers to nameless gods, but mostly keep to themselves and tend to their eerie gardens.
Old Growth Turnip Patches
The most abundant and edible resource around Lake Bykaal, these ancient turnip patches are equal parts concealed and defended by Bolyany’s few remaining locals.
Pool of Frozen Reflections
The faces of every mortal who has ever gazed upon this cursed pool’s waters glare upward with black, empty eyes.
Shore of Sightless Faces
A shoal of withered aelf-faced fish, the place where their eyes should be empty and scabbed over.
Bay of Bysuud
Like the Azyric structures of Old Dyunsk, the ancient burial grounds of Bysuud are thought to predate Gorkamorka’s hunt of the Ur-Whale, although how that is possible is unknown. This is not a resting place for the Lake’s populace, although what mortals might have been buried here and why they were laid to rest here before the Underworld’s forming has been lost to the ages. Regardless, these impossibly ancient crypts and mausoleums are relentlessly haunted by spiteful gheists.
Closer to the water and surrounded by the tombs of Bysuud stood the fishing village of Whitefish Bay, so named because of its abundance of small and tasteless yet edible white fish, which once provided the only other source of sustenance native to the lake besides Bolyany’s root vegetable crops.
Cathedral of the Mariner
The ancient Cathedral of the Mariner still stands here. Much-reduced from its days of glory, the stone skeleton of the building remains, yet holding a timeless bell not forged by mortal hands. In the Age of Myth, the priests would sound the bell to call the faithful to worship and soothe the lake’s angry spirits. When the wind blows just right, the bell yet sounds, and it’s said can yet be heard by the ghosts and the lost.
Not quite the remains but the unfinished beginnings of settlement. No destruction or ransacking is evident, just simple abandonment. There are seemingly no undead present, but no one who stays the night within the settlement’s half-completed walls is ever seen again.
Temple of Nyuranka
Nyuranka is a small, monastic town around an ornate temple of Nagash that was built on the ruins of a temple of Nyura, an ancient Goddess of Death from the age of Myth, whose essence and power were long ago consumed by Nagash. Nyura has been all but forgotten but somehow her name lingers on. Local folk give the temple a wide berth, cursing the goddess as a baleful banshee who calls on the longboats of the dead, a silent fleet of the hard-bitten souls doomed to sail Lake Bykaal.
Although its origins have been lost to antiquity, the Kingspyre is a simple stone tower, surrounded by burial mounts and a malignant green light that seems to rise from the ice and snow itself.
Once the spine of some vast and ancient sea creature native to the ocean that predated the current lake, it has been repurposed into a bridge crossing the lake’s tributary south of Nyuranka.
Stairs of Nyura (realmgate)
Supposedly this path once lead to Nyura’s own underworld, but now simply leads elsewhere in Shyish and has become a key route by which armies have arrived from across the Realm of Death.
Thought to have been founded by reclusive krakeneater gargants, the small settlement was beset by a winter storm for nearly a century. The noise of the wind proved to be enough to drive the townspeople mad, so most homes had deep cellars where their occupants slept for a few hours of relative peace each night. Of those who still call Poznyy their home, madness claimed them long ago, and even the few natives of places like Bolyany seldomly deal with them. They conceal themselves beneath long, tattered robes, and are known to act erratically and speak in taunting riddles. What now resides in their warrens can only be guessed at.
BorYuugvitre (south wind)
What remains of that old winter’s storm, the BorYuggvitre is an an angry, bitter wind that serves as a sort of realmgate within and around Lake Bykaal. Those who get lost within its blinding squalls may emerge dozens or even hundreds of miles away.
None have seen what lurks below the hovels of Poznyy’s populace, but speculation of what’s down there runs rampant.
These twisting, sheer rock faces and row upon row of jagged rocks mark the southern border of Lake Bykaal.
Within Lake Bykaal
Strait of Lauchon
Local legend says the souls buried in Amasya were delivered into Nyura’s care by Lauchon the Soulseeker. Although both these minor gods of death were long ago consumed by Nagash, their names live on.
What ice remains here is too thin to safely tread, and ships can pass freely- if not safely- up and down this newly-opened channel on the north side of the lake.
Wreck of the Marie Elaine
A holy site of the Cult of the Mariner, the Marie Elaine rests in one of the few ice-free patches of Bykaal. Only sixty feet beneath the surface, the currents there are slow, so that many have the strength to go below and touch the sacred relic themselves. Astonishingly, after almost fifteen centuries underwater, the Marie Elaine has not crumbled into scale, nor her name been lost to the knowledge of men. Indeed, her faithful, those who love her best, swear that someday she will do the impossible and rise again. Thus, she is a beacon of hope to the hopeless masses living on Bykaal’s shores, a promise that someday the lake’s curse may be lifted and the dead returned.
Wreck of the Etmund
The second holy site of the Cult of the Mariner. While the spirit of the Marie Elaine is often invoked for protection by the faithful, the spirit of the Etmund can only be appeased. Once, the Etmund was the pride of the Tsatraya side, connecting the city with mills on the lake’s far shore. As big ships went, she was bigger than most, well-crewed and well-captained. Almost a century before the end of the Age of Myth, she was caught by an early winter storm, a bone to be chewed in the Shyish wind’s malevolent jaws. Her final fate is unknown- she may have broke up, or capsized, or gone deep and took water. Who can know where Sigmar’s love goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours? All that remains now is the ghostly faces and names of wives and the sons and the daughters. None have been so deep as to see it and returned, for the water itself is deep and impossibly cold. The fate of the Etmund serves as an ultimate reminder to the faithful that Lake Bykaal never gives up her dead.
What lurks below Lake Bykaal?
A great fissure in the floor of the lake, it was rent by a deathstroke from the skies to strike down Belleck, a terrible necromancer seeking to claim the underworld for himself to house the bodies of kings and emperors that he had defeated. The corpses of his prized dead are rumored to have been scattered across the valley by the nethershock of the deathstroke. Some say the Trench cut a realmgate into the lake bed, but none can speak as to where it goes.
Dyatlov didn’t see the iceberg, because it wasn’t there.
The thickest ice on Lake Bykaal, huge chunks have been pushed up like tectonic plates, creating a vast network of icy canyons and cliff-tops.
New Dyunsk (submerged)
As Old Dyunsk declined, a number of residents made an effort to move closer to Tsatraya and the Bay of Bysuud. This would prove unfortunate, as their cliffside home collapsed into the lake.
A giant, green deep sea behemoth vaguely resembling an angler fish. The “Bad Sun” of it’s angler bit floats up thru the ice of the lake, hoping to lure creatures of the surface to unleash it from the lake. Notably has a decaying giant orruk foot lodged in the forest of teeth in its hideous underbite, preserved only by the lake’s icy waters.
Kambedaya the Eel Witch
An old witch living on a barge full of detritus, discarded items of endearment from deceased lovers sailing across the lake’s frozen surface. She wears a tarnished silver necklace with an incredibly rare blue diamond on it the size of a hen’s egg. Two Fangmora eels orbit the barge, and she speaks to them as dear companions even though they are very clearly not sentient.
Little is known about the harbour, save dread associations with the Temple of Nyuranka.
Somehow, the bodies of those slain in violence on the lake seem to wash up here. Thousands of half-decayed, thoroughly frozen bodies pile against the rocky outcrops of the area, creating a truly macabre whitewater rapid.