Sarthel lies in a high, semiarid plateau between the Draco Serrata Mountains to the north, and the lower Golden Hills to the south. Mines and quarries dot the foothills of both ranges. This upland is known as the Sarn Plateau, and it extends from the lowland forests of eastern Therund to the plain surrounding Lake Sarn. Much of the plateau is dry grassland, broken by copses of hardy trees. It’s thinly populated, with widely scattered ranches and mines in the mountain foothills. The ground is not especially fertile, except in the valley of the wide Blackfall River. This ribbon of farmland extends fifty miles or more from Sarthel, and its villages and freeholds feed the city. Small garrisons of soldiers guard the more important villages and outposts; the region within a day’s travel of the city walls is well patrolled and reasonably safe from bandits and monsters.
Once one travels more than ten miles or so from the city, or leaves the cultivated region along the Blackfall, the land quickly reverts to wilderness. To the north, the rugged heights of the Draco Serrata pose a formidable obstacle to travel between Sarthel and the small towns of the Dragondown Coast. Eastward lie the broken ridges and forest-choked vales of the Kulgard Peninsula, a region infested with hungry manticores and tribes of warlike gnolls. The arid plains and dry woodlands east of Lake Sarn were once settled, but the area was virtually depopulated a hundred years ago in the great wars that marked the end of Nerath. Bloodthirsty reavers from Winterskull ravaged the isolated towns here again and again. Today, travelers following the old imperial road from Sarthel to Avankil at the mouth of the Blackfall pass through a dry, desolate region of abandoned farmsteads, ruined keeps, and ruthless bands of outlaws.