Dining on Ashes
Desert of the Burning Sands
The Desert of the Burning Sands lies far to the south of Ludheim. It can be reached by traveling a long winding route that circles half of the Sea of Adin or much faster by sailing across the sea directly. Air travel is the quickest means of travelling to the desert region but prohibitively expensive when it comes to shipping the region any large amount of goods such as wood.
The Desert of the Burning Sands is so named not merely because the temperature of the region is hotter than most find comfortable (and it is considerably so) but because on any given day there is at least even odds that a sand storm will cover most of the region. The sand of this desert is quite fine and when heavy winds blow the sand creates a burning sensation upon any uncovered flesh that it strikes. Two or three days in a heavy sand storm can peel such unprotected skin clean off. The grinding effect of the sand storms is so intense that there are no permanent structures within the desert. Structures are quickly sanded away until they collapse and crumple within weeks in the case of wooden structures, or years in the case stone buildings. The only way a structure might survive for any length of time in this desert is if it protected from the sand storms by being buried completely by them.
This inhospitable region is ruled by no formal government. A gathering that occurs twice a year by the mostly nomadic tribes in the region provides the only means by which to speak to representatives of those who live in the Desert of the Burning Sands. This gathering is known as the Koparmak and takes place at Tranquility Oasis.
Tranquility is the only permanent oasis in the Desert of the Burning Sands. A constant vortex of wind some ten miles across constantly swirls around the oasis. In the center of this vortex is the eye of the storm and in this center lays Tranquility.
Few outsiders are ever able to successfully navigate the storm and find their way into Tranquility. Only the nomads of the desert are able to discern when the time of the Koparmak is at hand.
Tranquility is considered neutral territory at all times. It is guarded and attended to by the Guardians. These are a collection of the best warriors from each tribe. Once a nomad is named a Guardian, his or her days of travelling the desert are over. Guardians renounce all allegiance to their prior tribe and never leave the Oasis. Their only loyalty is to the oasis. No tribe may stay at Tranquility in between the times of the Koparmak. Those who are lost in the desert and manage to make their way to Tranquility will be given water, food, and rest – but must depart as soon as they are able.
All those who arrive at Tranquility are allowed to retain whatever weapons they carry. It is a tradition among the tribes that it is rude to disarm one’s guests. However, the penalty for any outbreak of violence is almost always a swift execution of the perpetrators by the Guardians. The tribes of the Burning Sands are each marked by tribal colors rather than any symbol. These colors adorn their flags and are almost always worn by each member of the tribe. Alliances between the tribes are constantly being formed and broken. It is almost unheard of for there not to be an ongoing conflict between at least two of the tribes at any given time.
Ecology of the Burning SandsThe Desert of the Burning Sands actually has a great deal of water, but almost all of it is buried hundreds of feet beneath the sand. Shifting winds can clear enough sand that the water beneath the desert will bubble up and form a small lake, at least until the winds shift and the water vanishes beneath the sands again.
Digging for water is an impossible feat with mere hand tools as the sand simple collapses in on any hole being dug. Mechanical drilling can be done, but often not before the machinery itself is buried beneath a sand dune.
The water in the Desert of the Burning Sands lies within dips of the limestone rock that forms the bedrock of the entire desert. The limestone holds small, scattered pockets of dragon stone. These veins are quite small and unlikely to yield more than a few dozen pounds. However, the amount of greater colored dragon stone is more likely to be found in these deposits than elsewhere in the world. Accordingly, when the sands are pushed aside by the winds enough to reveal the rock beneath, any tribes in the area will quickly act to mine out any possible dragon stone that can be found.
The wildlife of the Burning Sands lives mostly within the sand. The desert holds the largest number of beetles anywhere in the world, as well as a number of snakes and arachnids. These creatures burrow through the sand to reach water and feed upon one another or, occasionally, come to the surface to hunt for prey. Most of these creatures are harmless to humanoids, but several species are known to grow to colossal sizes. These can burst up from the ground, grab a nomad, and drag him beneath sands to devour.
With the exception of the trees and bushes that can be found at Tranquility Oasis, no plant life exists atop the shifting sands. Far beneath the ground, embedded in natural caverns that wind through the limestone bedrock in both small and great passageways, are a large number of fungal species.
It is rare that an entrance to a cavern in the Burning Sands is uncovered. Finding one can provide a large amount of sustenance from the mushrooms that can be found within and the water the often resides in great pools upon the cavern floor. However, exploring these caves is dangerous as the shifting sands can quickly bury the entrance to such caves within hours. It is rumored that ancient tribes of the Burning Sands would use these caverns to bury their dead. The modern tribes rely on cremation.