The Jaiyat Highlands comprise a hilly region of about 400 miles north to south and about 150 miles west to east, extending between the Vahlvoska Mountains to the north and the Greater Uzuid and Erlaeth mountain ranges to the south. To the west, they slope downward into the Tawaren Basin, and to the east a series of tributary rivers flow into the great valley of the Hawksfoot River.
Climate and Geography
The western side of Jaiyat on the border of the Tawaren Basin is generally rather dry, with shrubby deciduous forest and grasslands predominating. It is drained by two large rivers, the Gyaan to the north and the Vai to the south, which drain to the Blackwater and Lake Ollea. The Vai River Canyon is particularly notable for its depth and beauty.
The eastern Jaiyat Highlands are wetter and more heavily forested, due to the damp winds which come in via the Hawksfoot Valley from the Central Sea. This area is drained by the Upper Hawksfoot and its three southern tributaries, the Dravas, Clay, and Irren Rivers. These join the rivers that drain the Kulukh Mountains at Keepers Lake, whence the Lower Hawksfoot descends toward the Central Sea.
The dominant (and since the plague, only) inhabitants of the central highlands are the small hillfolk called the Jai who gave their names to the region. They tend to be about 4 to 4.5 feet tall and slender in build, with light olive skin, black eyes and thick curly black hair. Clothing is generally of simple cut, made of goats' or rabbits' wool dyed in shades of blue and green, with ornaments tending to be of carved lapis and Halidberg silver.
The local economy is chiefly agricultural, dependent upon smallhold farming and livestock such as the aforementioned goats and rabbits.
Most Jai have been converted to the cult of Yranna, but observe her rites with no great fervor, although the Flower of Life is a very popular artistic motif among them. Their artistic passions are reserved for fine carving and clay-work, as well as the perfection of a unique local style of singing.
The lower extents of the Kliss River and the Croaking Marshes at its mouth are occupied by lizardfolk communities, who are extremely insular and avoid contact with the Jai whenever possible. Another such population may inhabit the Sour Marshes north of Motherhallow, but if so they are even more secretive; it is possible the reports derive only from scouting parties.
Although no apparent physical obstacle exists to the spread of the plague across the Jaiyat Highlands via the south, the central Jaiyat region is populated only by the hillfolk, who are resistant to the disease. This plague-resistant population, coupled with the vigilance of the Order of the Gryphon at Riverwatch on the upper Vai River, has thus far proven an effective block to the spread of the epidemic into the Hawksfoot Valley. The extremely steep and difficult terrain at the foot of the Kulukh Mountains prevent the epidemic from reaching the Spice Road.
The recent outbreaks of plague north of the Greater Uzuid Mountains have so far not crossed Losian Ridge into the valley of the Vai, although it is unclear why not. It is generally credited to either the sparse local population, the immunity and xenophobia of the lizardfolk communities along the Kliss River, or the salubrious effects of Yranna's blessing, which is rumored to reside on the Vai Canyon.
No major commodities are exported from Jaiyat, only a number of small luxury items. The Jai clayware, which is of a pale green colour and peculiarly fine and smooth texture, is well-known and sought in both eastern and western markets. Lapis is also mined in small quantity, with most being carved into ornaments or powdered for use as a pigment before export. They also export certain agricultural products, notably tea, dried mulberries, and fine white rabbits' wool.
The trade route between Orvaelos and the Central Sea, now much diminished, passes through the Jaiyat Highlands. Since the Heriyat Pass was blocked, all trade across Jaiyat must pass along the Vai River - Rams' Pass - Upper Hawksfoot route, which is rough and difficult. This has induced a number of the hillfolk to begin operating short-distance overland caravans along an alternative route between Plaguefort and the small town of Arza on the upper Hawksfoot River.
To the north, the trade route between the Central Sea and Calishem passes instead along the longer and shallower course of the Tarshan River. Access to the pass over the Kulukh Mountains to Qashya Steppe is controlled by the monks of the Merchant Queen at the Opulent Monastery.
Major Towns and Government
Apart from the town of Motherhallow, a city of a few thousand which draws its name from the nearby great temple of Yranna in the alder grove, there are few large settlements along this segment of the Spice Road. The region is not under a centralized government; each town is largely autonomous, and no large cities are present anywhere in the central highlands.
Although there is a large presence of religious entities in the area (the Alder Temple of Yranna in the west; the Order of the Gryphon at Plaguefort, as well as their great Watchtower at Riverwatch in Keepers Lake; and the Opulent Monastery at the Merchant Queen's Pass), the Jai people are not strongly attached to any of them. Indeed, some see Loric's guard as unwelcome intruders, or at least as outsiders lacking in tact. Surrounded as they are by high mountains and plague lands, they are at present unlikely to encounter many threats to their self-government.