Located to the west of the Zandelos islands lies the miles long Crolaburm Trench. It was created nearly a thousand years ago in the same burst of volcanic activity that also created the Zandelos islands. The waters surrounding the Crolaburm Trench became almost tropical due to hydrothermal vents which in turn has led to an a huge influx of coral and black seaweed. Paradoxically some deeper in the trench some caves became glacially cold. A clan of merfolk who moved into the area in order to farm the seaweed considered those cold caves to be cursed and avoided at all costs.
Not long after the merfolk established themselves in the trench, a shimmering silver vessel touched down and discharged an exotic crew. The pilots were a group of androids wielding advanced technology that declared themselves the guardians of the Crolaburm Trench and forbid anyone from exploring the cold caves deep in the trench. The androids quickly proved themselves true to their word by destroying an inquisitive group of sahuagin with plasmathrowers. The merfolk and the androids developed a cautious relationship, both respecting each other’s territorial boundaries but not quite trusting each other. The situation became even tenser with the arrival of Azmarus, a water elemental dragon who now acts as a third side in this standoff. No single side is willing to move against the others because they don’t wish for an alliance to be formed against them.
The merfolk of the Hyalus Clan led a nomadic life until they came upon the Crolaburm Trench. Now they cultivate undersea fields of black seaweed and shepherd schools of fish for food. Additionally the clan mines nearby hydrothermal vents for obsidian and a volcanic variation of glassteel. Much of this material is traded with other merfolk clans, but some of it is kept in order to forge weapons in case of an unprovoked attack by androids. The Hyalus Clan holds annual elections to decide on the clan chief who holds complete legal authority unless voted out of office. Their current chief Noravel Bright-Tail is even more distrustful of the androids then her predecessors. She has been quietly reaching out to other nearby merfolk clans to form military alliances despite the wish for peace from the rest of her clan.
The androids that guard the deeper caves of the Crolaburm Trench brand themselves as the Lazurite Collective. They are a very secretive bunch, mostly staying within their ship, but often venturing out on patrols keeping an eye out for interlopers. Androids of the Lazurite Collective are specially adapted for their undersea environment. Unlike typical androids they have gills they can activate at will as well as retractable propulsion rotors allowing them to move quickly through the water. When asked about where they come from, the androids simply claim to come from beyond the stars without elaborating further. If pressed for answers about why they have come to the Crolaburm Trench they claim to be protecting the rest of the world from a great evil that resides in the deep. No one knows their exact technological capabilities but in addition to plasmathrowers they have been observed to use null blades and gravity pistols.
The water elemental dragon Azmarus is as greedy as any normal dragon, but he is also shockingly lazy. He chose the Crolaburm Trench as the location for his new lair because his natural invisibility in water combined with nearby maritime trade routes means he hardly has to travel far in order to get treasure. Azmarus is quite a terrifying sight and usually gets treasure with very little effort. Both the Hyalus Clan and the Lazurite Collective provide tribute in order to keep him pleased and less willing to side against them in a future conflict. The merfolk provide him with ample amounts of fish and other food while the androids give him harmless pieces of technology that tend to have lots of blinking lights.
Deep ones have been spotted around Crolaburm Trench much to the dismay of its inhabitants. No more than two or three are spotted at a time, but this has given rise to the fear they may be massing somewhere in secret. When approached the deep ones have fled and this has only fueled rumors about scouting parties for a possible invasion. The Lazurite Collective is on high alert and sending out more patrols in order to capture one of the deep ones alive for questioning. The Hyalus Clan is also quite concerned, having had encounters in the past with deep ones. Chief Bright-Tail will reward anyone who can find answers about where deep ones are hiding.
The storm season on the surface was particularly bad this year with a record number of ships smashed against reefs near the Zandelos islands. Surface goods are a rare commodity and tensions have flared over which of the different factions gets the largest shares. Azmarus has claimed everything for himself, but has yet to make any effort to gather it up. This has caused the merfolk and androids to only gather up small amounts of goods and treasure, hoping to slip it by Azmarus unnoticed. Both the Hyalus Clan and the Lazurite Collective have laid claim to all the available iron, and this has led to a few small skirmishes.
Drag & Drop Encounter (CR 18)
Azmarus the water elemental dragon prefers to use threats rather than action to get what he wants. He stalks his prey from a distance in order to ascertain anything of value they might be carrying. Once he decides what he want he then makes himself known with a show of intimidation hoping to scare his targets into paying him tribute. Azmarus has very keen sense despite his laziness and attempts to trick him by passing off something worthless as valuable will back probably backfire. Combat is never his first choice of action and when forced to fight, he prefers to target the weakest individual hoping their quick death will end it quickly. He opens with his steaming breath weapon before wading into melee combat with teeth and claws.