By Jergo Wheybringer
Travel down the old Orc Highway in the Sinking Sands. Where the road forks, a short spur heading into the sandstone hills leads directly to the Clefts of Rujark.
As the name implies, this is a bastion of the Rujarkian orcs. Indeed, the majority of the Clefts’ residents are orcs of one sort or another.
Why they have congregated in such numbers and diversity is anyone’s guess, but it is clear that this is an area in which much happens unseen.
Over lengths of time unimaginable, layer upon layer of sand and stone have compressed into bands of brown and pale blue.
Within these bands are mineral deposits which the orcs mine industriously within the deep and narrow canyons. The Clefts include an array of tunnels in which the orcs can take the ore from its raw state to finished product without ever leaving the area.
Heavy wooden doors (wood imported from Zek, judging by their thickness and quality) barricade the Clefts’ entrances. Scaffolding of the same high-quality timber provides access to higher levels within the canyon.
Within the Clefts, a variety of denizens make their homes — some by choice, others by force. The orcs have never turned away free labor from external resources, such as unfortunate local Dervins.
The Steelslave orcs patrol the lowest level constantly, often in the company of fierce marrowjaws that are somewhat, though not entirely, domesticated.
Turning into any of the passages, one may encounter miners and toilers, or perhaps orcs simply taking a breather from the backbreaking labor.
Sunlight rarely penetrates the Clefts to its floor, leaving the air dry but not unbearably hot. Within the mines themselves, the thick stone walls keep temperatures very mild indeed.
Almost pleasant, though the company could be improved upon!
As one travels higher in the Clefts, there is a change in both temperature and personnel. At the highest levels, one will encounter orcs bearing both Deathfist and Crushbone markings.
With its vast network of mines and tunnels, the Clefts of Rujark can take many days to explore.
With a bit of luck, some excellent provisioning and a band of well-trained friends along, you might consider a trip through these orc-infested canyons at least once. It is nothing less than an adventure of the highest sort.
You might even be lucky enough to glimpse the harpies diving from above to pick off orcs on the ramparts! It is a truly breathtaking sight.