The Cliffs of Gent are one of the most striking and mysterious natural wonders in the known world. The towering cliffs rise 4,000 feet into the air from the valley below and vary only slightly in both height and depth. Made of a hard reddish-brown stone, the cliffs are dotted by countless crags—tall spires of stone roughly the height and width of a human. Other than a couple species of biting flies and thorny weeds living among the rocks of the cliffs, the area is bereft of life. And those species that call the area home are found nowhere else in the world. A band of lifeless, barren soil extends out from the feet of the cliff some 1,000 feet and another 500 feet from the top. Despite numerous studies and near constant analysis, researches have yet to understand the cause of the soil’s sterility.
Due to their immense size and dangerous nature (the crags are prone to breaking and falling, crushing anything below) few attempts have been made to create a pathway connecting the valley with the highlands above. In fact, only one trail was ever created. Known as the Ghost Trail, it was constructed around 450 PM as a way of connecting Dames with Sayfend in the Valley of Gent. However, after numerous deaths during its construction and immediately following its opening, the trail was closed permanently. As a result, the Valley of Gent has remained isolated from the rest of Atla.
Geologists and researchers have yet to understand the processes involved and required to create the natural wonder. As it stands now, science has no way of explaining how the cliffs could have formed other than speculating they are the remnants of an impact crater. Though it’s the leading theory, supporting evidence is lacking (no debris above the rim or in the valley). The most common belief among Atlans is that the cliffs were created by supernatural means. The creation myth has existed for hundreds if not thousands of years. Whether or not it’s valid, it has captured the interest of children and adults alike. Here is the myth in brief:
Tens of thousands of years ago, in the region now known as the Valley of Gent, a great civilization thrived. At the time it was the greatest civilization in the world, eclipsing even the greatest dynasties of Kairos, ancient Meroma, or Peros and Mogdan. The people, said to have descended from the nation’s first inhabitants, were early Followers of the Five and worshipped Gent.
For many centuries the righteous people prospered. Favored by Gent, their pious lives resulted in numerous blessings. Though little is known about their rituals today, they were believed to be devout, dedicating their lives to serving their God and each other. As a result of their dedication and righteousness Gent blessed the people and they developed fantastic technology. Little evidence of their former technology remains, but many speculate the people developed ancient forms of motorcarts and raillines. Some even speculate the people developed flying machines.
After many years of prosperity, pride, selfishness, and conceit spread throughout the land. The people who were once equal and devout followers of Gent began to separate themselves into classes. The rich mocked and persecuted the poor, while the poor coveted what they didn’t have. Within 400 years the bustling and noble civilization transformed into a great kingdom known more for gambling, theft, murder, and gluttonous pride from its leaders than selfless compassion. Gent, almost forgotten by the people at large, sent prophets throughout the land to call the people to repentance and turn their hearts towards the principles found in the Writ of the Five. For a season the prophets found success among the poorest of the poor, with some turning from their ways and devoting their time to helping others. But alas, their righteousness was short lived. After another 100 years the entire region returned to its class system founded on persecution. The favored people turned to human sacrifices, idol worship, slavery, and sexual deviancy like never before. When even Gent’s chosen prophets could not change the hearts of the people the God called them away from the land and pronounced a curse upon the people.
The curse began with a drought. The people had advanced technology and many tools, but they still dependent upon the land for much of their food (their technology serving to increase crop yield and diversity). For a season the crops withered and the region’s harvests were slim. However, the resourceful people mocked the gods, laughing in the face of a mere drought. Using their advanced technology the people were able to purify the ocean water and use it to irrigate the vast farmlands that filled the area. With the new irrigation systems the people were able to create larger farms and produce more food. As a result, the population exploded. Most of the growing population, however, was forced into slavery, serving the wealthy ruling class.
Angered by the people’s stubborn disregard for their beliefs and core values, Gent cursed the land once again. Where the first curse was a drought, the second curse was a constant rain that brought with it floods and ruined crops. Tornadoes decimated the landscape, floods carried people away and into the ocean, lightning struck people, livestock, and homes, and the constant winds battered what wasn’t swept away during the tornadoes. The rains lasted for an entire season, turning the once fertile lands into bogs and swamplands. When the rains abated the insects moved in, devouring what little plant life remained and infecting the people with horrendous diseases.
Within a year the people had developed means of controlling the insects and cultivating the land. By now the bogs were drying and returning to their natural state, and the people’s technology only expedited the process.
For a second time after their chastisement and call to repentance the people looked at their triumph over the gods as proof of their inherent power and greatness. It was after the rains and flooding that the people reached the peak of their technological prowess and spiritual depravity. The caste system was further refined with people being ranked at birth. The lowest classes were used as human waste, for everything from sexual toys to targets for weapons practice. It is said that the ruling class would often wander the streets looking for homeless children to use in their games of war or as high quality feed for their animals. The class above the human waste was considered was a class of slaves that, while they lived longer than their human waste counterparts, didn’t enjoy many more freedoms. There were numerous other classes within the system with the ruling class at the top—the ones who enjoyed the advanced technologies, comfortable homes, abundant food, and the use of the lower classes as they saw fit. In this world, where Gent’s prophets were not allowed, there was no god beyond the object of an individual’s immediate desire.
The people could not be saved, Gent knew. Further, the people’s disgusting and abhorrent lifestyle was beginning to spread to regions beyond their major cities and towns—the aggressive and warring people began raiding neighboring lands and destroying the primitive people who inhabited them. Unchecked, the people’s depravity would spread like a virus throughout the rest of the continent and destroy any righteous civilizations who got in their way.
During the summer solstice, when the sun went down and the moon was supposed to rise, there was only blackness. Even the stars refused to shine. During the midnight hours the people of the land saw something rising from the west, coming as it were out of the sea. It was as large as the moon, a black beast with a wide and rounded jaw full of millions of teeth. Once it reached the heavens the beast opened its jaws and dove towards the ground. It was so large and moved so quickly, as a great moon falling from the sky, that it could not be heard; only seen. The beast slammed into the ground, biting the region and crushing the ground between its jaws. As the beast pulled away it dragged the land with it, devouring the earth away and swallowing it whole. When the beast returned to the water the sea flooded the hole left by his jaws, drowning the soil and anything that might have escaped its wrath.
For 1,000 years the valley was filled with water. On the summer solstice 1,000 years after the event the seas receded and returned to the great ocean from whence they came. Once the water had vanished the land was left salted and barren, a deep valley where nothing could live for hundreds of years—the Valley of Gent.
It is said that the reason nothing can grow around the Cliffs of Gent is due to the curse Gent placed when he swallowed the land. The barren soil is a reminder to the people of Atla and the world as a whole that righteousness brings prosperity and pride brings ruin. The Cliffs, the crags specifically, are said to be where his teeth bit into the land as he pulled away the soil and created the depression.
Today the tale of Gent devouring the land and creating the Valley is told and retold by people throughout the world. Some believe it to be the literal truth, others feel it a divinely inspired tale of caution, others thinking it a mere fable. Regardless of the origin and authenticity, the Cliffs of Gent themselves are every bit as spectacular as the legend would have you believe.