There are enough theories about the Broken Maiden to busy a university of scholars for semesters on end, so we will begin with what is known.
Once, the Maiden dwelt in the heavens. At times, during the month, she looked down upon the world with one eye. Other times, all you could see was her white smile curving through the sky. She blessed magicians with her wisdom, and was known to be the patron goddess of jesters.
And then she fell, not more than forty miles from Vain’s Rest. Among the things that are not known is the cause of her fall; we will return to this. The effects of her fall are clearer. There is a crater some miles across, and in the center, her marble body lies, surrounded by earth turned to glass. Her clothing has not decayed since she fell. Nor has her flesh.
The Broken Maiden is the most powerful source of magic known to man. By the term Broken Maiden we mean both the body and the crater that surrounds it. Some theorists would have it that she fell to save us: some mad genius created a magical source so powerful that the Maiden elected to give her own life in order to stifle it to the point where humanity could remain intact. Some theorists, who believe that she fell for some other reason, simply attribute the magical energies that surround the Broken Maiden to the Maiden’s own nature.
Those energies are dangerous. Animals enter the crater from time to time, and are inevitably transmuted. Coming close to the crater is not immediately deadly, but it is a surefire method of changing one’s life. No human lives less than twenty miles from the Broken Maiden. There are edifices much closer, both above and below ground, and many find it worth the trouble to visit them, but few spend more than a week at a time in such pursuits.
Not all of those structures, by the by, were known before the Maiden fell. Some of them seem to have grown from the sands of the desert without the need for human hands.
Vain’s Rest is conveniently located just far enough from the Broken Maiden to be reasonably safe for its inhabitants.