At the heart of Feron is a circular ring of jagged mountains known as the Mountains of Dramon. The Mountains of Dramon are both the tallest and largest mountain range on the continent, with most peaks reaching over 10,000 feet. The circular mountains surround a desert region known as the Gateway to Dramon, which itself is the largest and hottest dune desert in the world (30 percent larger than the Valley of Gent on Atla). Most researchers believe the area was formed millions of years ago when a meteorite struck the continent. While this idea is backed by some fossil and geological evidence, there is not enough evidence to shift the idea from theory to proven fact.
The outer highlands of the Mountains of Dramon are highly populated and home to a variety of cultures and climates. Nearly half of the entire mountain range is found in the country of Agrilla. This western country is known for its dramatic and damp climate. With the ocean to its west and the mountains to its east, moisture from The Abyss combined with heat from the desert makes the country one of the wettest in the world. Landslides and floods have scarred the highlands and valleys throughout the eastern region of the country. Despite the harsh climate the people have been able to create lush farmlands where many tropical fruits are grown and shipped throughout the rest of the world.
The northern half of the Mountains of Dramon border both Agrilla and Saia. The small region between the two countries is the only area that receives more than trace amounts of snowfall. With the highest peaks reaching more than 14,000 feet, it is also the coldest area on the continent. A handful of small villages and ancient settlements dot the high plateaus and valleys of the region. Most of the native people eke out meager existences as ranchers and herders.
Seriph and Nasca border the eastern portion of the mountains. This area, though dryer than the western side of the mountains, is also home to extreme weather, usually in the form of high winds and lightning. The prevailing winds travel east from The Abyss and reach the Mountains of Dramon where they split and wrap around the high peaks. A great deal of moisture is lost as rainfall in Agrilla. While the air loses some of its moisture along the way, the winds themselves intensify. Eventually the winds converge around the eastern edge of the mountains in Seriph and Nasca, their intensity aided by the dramatic change in temperature throughout. As a result, high winds, severe lightning storms, and massive changes in temperature are all common (not to mention isolated tornadoes in the lowlands). Unlike the rest of the highlands and valleys, the peaks along the eastern edge of the mountains are uninhabited.
The southern region of the mountains borders Kairos and Menethos. Though windy (like all the highlands and foothills), the climate here is moderate. As a result, the mountains in both countries are densely populated and home to thriving communities. And though the population distribution in Feron heavily favors the coastal regions, the population of the foothills in both countries necessitated an addition to the continent’s rail system.
While the Mountains of Dramon are unique among mountain ranges in Disparia, it is the desert at the center of the range that defines the area. Known as the Gateway to Dramon, the dune desert inside the ring of mountains is the hottest and driest area in the known world. In fact, other than a few locations around the inner highlands, no weather stations or research teams have ever recorded even trace precipitation. And with temperatures that begin at 100 degrees on the inner highlands and only get hotter as one travels inwards, it is the most inhospitable place on the planet.
Though science can provide a basic explanation as to the formation of the mountains, science is helpless to explain the existence of the desert. The lack of knowledge and understanding is not due to a lack of effort. There are dozens of major research outposts situated in and around the Mountains of Dramon, funded by independent organizations, universities, and governments alike. Despite decades of research, little is known about the Gateway itself.
At 5,000 feet above sea level the temperature inside the Mountains of Dramon climbs to 100 degrees and precipitation stops. A few hearty cacti and bushes manage to survive just below what researchers call the Dry Zone, their only supply of water coming from the small streams and rivulets that drain into the Gateway. Most, if not all, of the precipitation that falls in and around the mountains drains outward to the rest of Feron. Only a few dozen streams have been found to drain inwards. The rivers that do drain into the desert all dry and evaporate before reaching the low valley. The low valley, the heart of the desert, rests some 500 feet below sea level and is the lowest known place on Disparia. The strong prevailing winds traveling from The Abyss strike the Mountains of Dramon and tumble around and over the high peaks. Due to the severe difference in temperature and the mountain range’s unique topography, strong downdrafts and updrafts assault the Gateway to Dramon. Like a giant whirlpool, the intense winds swirl around the inner ring of the mountains. During the morning hours as the temperature increases the cyclone spins upwards, blasting sand and pebbles from the inner basin as high as 7,000 feet up the mountains. The morning updrafts begin just before sunrise and continue until the afternoon, usually abating for a couple of hours between four and six. As the sun begins to fall and the temperature drops the winds spiral downwards, gathering the sand and debris that was blown upwards and returning it to the valley floor. As the winds rise and fall each day the sand and rocks blast and pummel anything within the Gateway. Bedrock and fallen boulders from the peaks above are smooth and lightly striated, their surfaces polished by the constant abrasion. The few plants that survive around and above the Dry Zone have developed thick branches and tough skin. Unique species of cacti grow around the Dry Zone and are known to have the toughest skin of any species on Disparia, but even with their stone-like skin they are frequently damaged by sudden squalls.
Most research outposts are situated above the Dry Zone where the winds are less intense and mostly free of sand. Most research is done between three and six in the morning and four and six in the afternoon when the winds below the Dry Zone are a steady 60 miles per hour.
Beneath the feet of the Mountains of Dramon and into the Gateway itself you will find nothing but a sea of sand and dirt. Temperatures reach 130 at the base of the mountains and continue to increase the closer you get to the center. The highest temperature on Disparia was recorded 15 miles from the base of the mountains. At 155 degrees, the intense heat led to the deaths of a dozen researchers who were part of a 20-person team. Their trek into the desert was the deepest any humans have traveled towards the heart of the Gateway.
Though the winds lessen during the night and afternoon, they never abate. As a result it is impossible to see more than a few hundred feet in any direction once you venture into the Gateway itself. A continuous sandstorm fills the expansive valley with isolated tornadoes and microbursts more common than not. Protective eyewear and clothing are required, though the abrasive sand tends to ruin even the most durable gear in a matter of minutes.
Between the extreme weather, unusual geography, and deadly nature of the Gateway to Dramon and the Mountains of Dramon, many myths and legends have been created to explain the phenomena. The prevailing notion among some Followers of the Five is that the Gateway to Dramon is the literal entrance to the afterlife. Most believe that righteous Followers of the Five are taken to heaven upon their deaths. Sinners and those who live without religion return to meet their God and are given the opportunity to seek absolution by becoming angels and ministering to the people of Disparia. Those that agree to do so make restitution for their sins (after a period of time determined by the severity of their sins) and are eventually granted access to heaven. However, the most vile and evil sinners are not given an opportunity to make amends. Instead, their spirits are thrown into the Gateway to Dramon. There, in the outskirts of the desert, they are forced to wander the vast area searching for the path to heaven which resides at the heart of the desert. The evil spirits consigned to wander the Gateway feel all the sensations and emotions they would feel in their natural bodies but are unable to die or find reprieve. There they wander for countless years, searching through the blinding sands for their one last chance at redemption. All throughout the Gateway are said to be great pits that lead to the Endlands, and any spirit foolish enough to fall into one is lost forever, becoming an angel of perdition, losing their body and ability to grow for all eternity. The name Gateway to Dramon originated from the belief that the desert itself led most vile sinners to their master, Dramon, while few ever made it back to heaven.
While most Followers of the Five feel the myth of the Gateway to Dramon is more of a metaphor for the pain a sinner experiences after a life of evil, there is no denying that the harsh desert is the most horrific place imaginable and responsible for claiming countless lives.