Vortex is the island that sits in the very center of Tempest. It is the largest island in the cluster, at nearly fifty-two miles long and forty-six miles wide (2389.761 square miles), and the only island that never moves. It sits directly under the Gyre, a stable and slowly rotating hurricane from which the island seems largely protected.
Environment and Ecology Edit
Vortex sits directly under the Gyre, an otherworldly hurricane that covers the entire island and stretches out over most of Tempest, and from which the region takes its name. The Gyre never rains on the island, but it is covered with lush tropical wildlife. There is no standard day/night cycle, as the Gyre blocks view of Sholis and Krophis at all times. Instead, the island is illuminated by the threads of shifting radiance woven throughout the storm, most strongly in the eye wall, and the lightning that never seems to strike the ground. Through the eye, a night sky can be seen at all times, but many navigators have expressed with some concern that the stellar formations don't line up with anything visible from Khadaka. The eye of the Gyre is roughly ten miles across and sits directly over the very center of the island, and there are a host of flowering plants that only grow in the faint light of these stars. These are the only flowering plants on the island.
The waters surrounding the island are surprisingly calm for a few hundred feet away from shore, which enables the ships that frequent the island to dock safely. At the edges of this safe zone, however, are the roughest waters in all of the islands.
All attempts to use Krophin or Agnar magic on the island go horribly awry, sometimes utterly consuming the mage attempting to use it. Fatebinding can be used normally, but is rarely attempted because the threads of fate all appear to be charged with unknown energy and in a state of constant flux. As such, while there is no immediate threat to the Fatebinder, and identical methods can be used here as those used elsewhere, the results are often significantly harder to predict accurately. Fae magic works normally. This effect is true of all of the islands, but weakens as one travels farther from the eye of the Gyre.
The island has a largely tropical ecology, with variants on animals and plants found in regions closer to the equator. The life of Vortex, however, has been altered by its proximity to the eye of the Gyre. Most of this can pass unnoticed, but birds with two sets of wings, wild cats that seem to teleport short distances, and vines that seem to reach out and hunt animals have all been recorded. A full catalog of the life on Vortex has never been completed, as very few attempts have been made to explore the entirety of the island's forests and the few attempts made have failed. Attempts to take these plants and animals off Vortex for study or entertainment have proven largely unfruitful, as they seem to have greatly reduced lifespans when removed from under the Gyre.
Vortex is also rich in fae. The birds of paradise present on Vortex produce the strongest æther of all the islands, which is golden amber in color and has a vibrant glow. It is the only island large enough to house a significant centaur population, who have become adjusted enough to the humans that they carry on a small trade operation with the tavern and its patrons for substances and trinkets that can only be found or produced on Vortex. The centauri have, to date, refused all agreements which would have them help explorers understand the island better. Fauns are known to exist on the island, but they are reclusive and avoid contact with humans. Similarly, shadows have been seen hunting in the forests and near the road, but they rarely bother the humans. The tavern employs a small task force responsible for keeping the island relatively safe for those who reach it, and due to the efforts of this team, no Ladies of Vortex are ever able to spend any significant time on Vortex. The Warlord of Vortex does not bother with the humans who frequent the island, though there is significant debate on why this is so.
Directly under the eye of the Gyre sits the Four Winds Bar, a sprawling tavern/general store converted from a fortress hundreds of years ago that serves as the center of commerce and culture on the island. The few 'permanent' residents live either in the tavern or in a small village that surrounds it. There is no official government that rules over the island, but everyone who lives there works for the tavern and no one is allowed to stay more than a single generation out of concern that they will be gradually changed by the magic of the island. Even the four owners of the tavern spend most of their time off the island, leaving one at a time behind to run operations and meeting once a year to discuss business and, if necessary, determine a replacement for a deceased member. Those who live on the island have built up a working relationship with the centauri, and most of the huts in the village have room to house a weary centaur should they stay in the area too late or take advantage of the tavern's more popular wares.
The majority of the people on the island are visitors who pass through, generally spending only a few days in the tavern. These are mostly pirates hiding out from the nations they harass, while others are deserters from the constantly warring colonies on the outer islands who are seeking a new life and, generally, safe passage away from the islands. There is also a significant migrant population of mages who have decided to hide from the gods in the islands, though most live on the rim islands and only travel to Vortex occasionally for supplies and community. A few explorers occasionally pass through, but it is a daunting task to get to the island unless they convince a regular visitor to bring them. Because there is no stable culture that spans multiple generations among those who live on the island, and those visiting are mostly criminals, the island is an incredibly unruly and often violent place. The only authority recognized by everyone on the island are the owners of the Four Winds Bar, who hold absolute sway but do not use it in day-to-day scuffles. To avoid taking up what little space they have with a cemetery, those who die on the island are either sent with their ship to be buried at sea or returned to family, or are coated in æther and left in the forest for the shadows.
While much of what is sold on the island can be taken off the island by sailors, the only statistically significant single export is æther dust. There is a section of the Four Winds Bar devoted to producing it, which includes a hearty nesting operation for local birds of paradise and a refinery where it is converted into a more easily transported powder. The substance can also be purchased in its original liquid form, but few ship captains will risk carrying it aboard or allowing their crews to do so.
There are two notable landmarks on the island. One sits on the intersection of the beach path, which completely encircles the island, and Four Winds Road, the only maintained path leading to the village and tavern. At the intersection is a small stone shrine, made to resemble a sword, where sailors traditionally leave offerings to the Warlord of Vortex in exchange for safe travels to, on, and from the island. While most believe that the offering is unnecessary, every ship brings something, and those that refuse are shunned by the others as potentially inviting disaster upon themselves. The most common gifts are small magical trinkets or dabs of æther from other islands, of which the hilt of the sword is covered with a thick multicolored coat that glows enough to serve as a beacon for those seeking the road in the dark. The other is a small cottage barely visible in the edges of the forest on the northern coast of the island, where Lophael lived while writing the Book of Lophael. Phaelist travelers to the island will occasionally leave a gift at the cottage, but the island is too inaccessible to allow a regular stream of pilgrims.