At the very bottom of the world is Matrakal. To an outside observer, who had never seen what some intrepid explorers have drawn on maps, the first glimpse of Matrakal would also hopefully be the last, as all that is visible from afar are the towering walls of ice and rock that make up the outer ring of the Barrier Glace. Little would these observers realize that, beyond the frozen waste of the Barrier Glace lies Matra's Womb, the inner matrix of Matrakal. In this place, Matra, the mother goddess of nature on Therafim, has created a sanctuary where all life can live and thrive, without tampering from outside sources. Just about every sort of natural creature that lives or has lived on Therafim can be found on Matrakal somewhere. But of all the humanoid races, only beastfolk, Matra's own created children, are allowed to live there. All others are warded off by the terrors of the Barrier Glace, and by the gradually-increasing terrors of the Womb of Matra. Visitors that make it past the Barrier Glace are allowed to stay awhile, but if they stay too long, then they might end up staying forever, for Matra herself keeps a jealous eye on Matrakal, to preserve it from all potential invaders, no matter how well-intentioned.
Major Races: Beastfolk (all types); Druids; others (non-native).
Places of Note:
The Fountain of Youth: Located inside a deceptively peaceful grove, the Fountain of Youth is the single most desirable location on Matrakal, and the primary reason that many are willing to risk their all to explore this vast and dangerous land. On the rare occasions when it is not actively guarded by squatters, the Fountain of Youth has its own powerful guardians, in the form of nymphs hostile to all outsiders, a mix of unicorn species (including the evil, aggressive black unicorns), and perfume-scented dire crocodiles that live in its waters, kept eternally vigorous despite having lived since near the dawn of Therafim's creation. The area around the Fountain, all of which is warded against teleportation and scrying magic, is also the territory of many strange, primitive creatures, including giant arthropods, ancient mammals, and a few of the smaller dinosaurs. These many guardians keep up a perimeter around the Fountain, and use guerrilla tactics, fading into the woods around them when outmatched, and waiting and watching for an opportunity to strike when a present user of the Fountain is weakest, likely from fighting the others who want to drink from the Fountain. Additionally, a powerful Weird of water, known as the Seer of Ages, lives in the Fountain itself, though she only rarely makes herself known to visitors to the Fountain, mostly using her powers of foresight to help the guardians of the Fountain plan their defenses properly against all who might try to drink from the pool. Strangely enough, the guardian nymphs of the Fountain of Youth tend to scale the challenges that first-time visitors must face, so that they will be appropriate to the visitor in question. Those who are pure in heart (something that only the Seer of Ages can tell for certain) are often actively protected by the nymphs of the Fountain on their first visit, allowing them to avoid the dangers of the area around the Fountain of Youth completely.
Provided that a traveller can actually get past these many dangers and challenges, which can sometimes vary greatly, the Fountain of Youth is a small natural artesian that bubbles up from the ground, forming a small pool. A single drink from this fountain - an amount roughly equivalent to what will fit inside of a potion flask - affects the drinker as though they were using an elixir of youth, except without the danger of losing the gained youth. Unknown to many, however, the effect takes about ten minutes before it activates, which can lead some impatient users to drink a bit too much. Repeated doses can reduce a user of the Fountain to infanthood (the nymphs at the Fountain are known to collect such infants and give them to other fae for transfer to appropriate adoptive parents), or even cause an especially greedy drinker to simply vanish altogether. Full immersion of a corpse in the Fountain of Youth will bring the dead back to life (as a True Resurrection spell cast by a 30th level cleric) and restore the dead one to the age at which death occurred, curing all conditions that might have lead to the original causes, and allowing additional doses of the water to relieve any additional effects of age. This requires a mostly-intact corpse (at least with skin still covering the skeleton), but otherwise has no real limitations on the age of the corpse. Any person so restored to life, however, cannot be brought back a second time. Additionally, while the guardians of the Fountain of Youth might scale the challenges of the first visit appropriately for the visitor, second and subsequent visits get steadily more difficult and dangerous, until they become nearly impossible to overcome. Any one visitor to the Fountain can collect enough water from the Fountain to immerse one Large-size creature (roughly enough for forty doses), which work just as though they were normal elixirs of youth after they have been away from the pool for more than ten minutes (including the danger of all previous reductions in age, including the ones from directly drinking from the fountain, removed), but the Fountain requires at least a month after this to refill the emptied pool, and the guardians become desperately vicious to anyone that takes up residence at the Fountain of Youth, even going to far as to call in Inevitables on the especially persistent and obnoxious.
Barrier Glace: The Barrier Glace is the frozen tundra ringing the Womb of Matra on all sides, a barren, forbidding wasteland that is fatal to the unprepared, and incredibly dangerous even to those who plan in advance for its crossing. Where the rest of Matrakal is a place for creatures of warmer climes to live and thrive, the Barrier Glace is the place where creatures of colder climes thrive. Also present, roaming the frozen surface of the Glace freely, are occasional roaming Inevitables, whose job it is to protect the boundary between Matra's Womb and the rest of Therafim, on special orders from Umnos the Watcher, the god of barriers and of time, and part of the trio of ruling gods of Therafim, which also includes Matra and the Morrigan. At both edges, outer and inner, of the Barrier Glace are towering, near-vertical mountains of rock and ice. Crossing the outer one leads to a terrible frozen plateau, and crossing over this plateau is a trip easily a week long on foot, at fastest, or several days with faster forms of transportation, such as flying or drawn sleds, through sub-zero weather and searing cold winds all the way. Passing the inner ring of towering ice cliffs will bring survivors into the blessed Womb of Matra itself, where they might have a chance to rest from all their troubles. At least for a while.
Gunnertopf Juncture: Named after the first outsider to discover it, a dwarven explorer who was also one of the first non-beastfolk humanoids to discover the Fountain of Youth (this was almost one thousand years ago - it is unknown if Gunnertopf is still alive, as he vanished into the forests of Matrakal with another group of explorers roughly two centuries ago, and has not been heard from since), the Gunnertopf Juncture is a deep fissure into the earth, which has grown an extensive series of vines and roots and other vegetation into its sides, allowing relatively easy travel up and down the sides of the fissure. There are a host of interesting caves and tunnels running through the sides of the Juncture, which are filled with a vast and amazing host of living things and beautiful crystal formations and exquisite natural wonders caused by the movements of the inner world of Therafim. At the bottom of Gunnertopf Juncture is an entrance to the Underdark, perhaps the only truly feasible entrance on all of Matrakal to the worlds below Therafim's surface. As such, it is both hotly contested by the creatures and factions of the Underdark, and also closely guarded by the Druid Council and the beastfolk tribes of Matrakal.
Womb of Matra: Also called Matra's Womb, this is the inner sanctum of Matrakal. In this place, ringed on all sides by towering walls of rock and ice, the life energy of Therafim is able to flow freely. Here there are flowing streams and gorgeous lakes, freshwater swamps and layered-canopy forests, scrubby hot plains and steaming jungles all crammed next to each other, just barely separated by minor natural features, such as streams and hills. Here, just about any animal, beast, magical beast, or plant can be found here somewhere, living out its life as it was meant to be, without the interference of most sentient races. This is also where most of the tribes of beastfolk on Matrakal live (a few of the more cold-adapted beastfolk tribes live on the milder parts of the Barrier Glace), though they take great pains not to interfere with the natural order, most going so far as to live almost like the animals that they most resemble, or as close to that way of life as is possible without losing touch with their sentient selves. Besides the beastfolk, however, no other playable race is allowed to live in the Womb of Matra, though all are allowed to stay awhile for a visit and bask in the beauty of the place, if they can make it past the Barrier Glace or the Gunnertopf Juncture. However, the more disruptive to life in Matrakal that one becomes, or the longer one stays, the more dangerous the life forms that visitors to Matra's Womb become, and the more frequent these dangerous encounters become.