The Badlands

The Dune Wastes: The Dune Wastes were once fertile land, much like the steppes and savannah of the Badlands. The cataclysmic event which brought this about is long ago forgotten, if indeed any knew its origins to begin with. The majority of the Dune Wastes are not actually covered with dunes, but with reg, or 'desert pavement.' Strong, unpredictable winds characterize the region, blowing in from many variable directions through the year. Some of the greater ones bear such names as Siffron and Channuk. These kinds of winds build what are called star dunes: monstrous, mountainous structures. These towering piles of sand cover only half of the land, though. Hardy shrubs, grasses, and even trees grow about the bases of these giants, which unlike the dunes some are familiar with do not move and in fact in most cases have remained where they are, sucking in sand and giving little back to the land around them, for centuries. Water filtering through the bases of the dune mountains helps to sustain the plants about them, while others, from living rocks to cacti, brave the areas away from the relative protection of the dunes.

The portion directly to the west of the Catharga Salt Flats and Mountains is a hyper-arid stretch where some portions might not see rain in decades and almost nothing lives. Occassional oases can be found among the dunes, but only two major water sources exist. The Peeat River winds down from the Skalls and across the southwestern corner of the Dune Wastes, eventually joining with many other rivers as part of the mightiest of the Sisabo river systems. The Peeat winds its way through the stunning Muroka Gorge, up to two miles deep and fifteen wide in some places, carved out of sandstone and limestone. The canyon walls are a vivid array with layers of many varied colors, further changed by wind and rain. The terrain here becomes nigh impassable, especially when combined with rapids in many parts of the river, but farther along moves out into the open.

The other major body of water is the Grace of Cepheus, a large lake sitting squarely in the south of the desert, with over half of it actually in the Kolg'dol Savannah that bounds the desert on the south. Appearing seemingly from nowhere and emptied by the winding Tuv'gan River through the savannah to the south, the Grace of Cepheus is the largest surface body of fresh water in the Badlands, excluding the Sisabo, which even during its dry season has more wetlands. The source of the lake is aquifers which connect to a vast underground sea beneath much of the northern desert and the Great Steppes. Both river and lake see frequent visits from the peoples who live near them, and even some semi-permanent to permanent villages are situated around them.

The Frozen Marches - A Land Between and Apart: As you go east from Thermador into the Skalls, the mountains eventually give way to towering plateaus. These are known as the Frozen Marches. The word 'march' describes a borderland, a place between others, and these high plains fit this definition perfectly. To the north they drop off onto the open tundra and thence into the Frozen Waste, a place of year-round ice and snow. To the east the conifer swamps of the Hokuj (taiga), and to the south and southeast the vast expanse of the Great Steppes. Deep ravines slice through them, and glaciers move across them in several places, forming lakes at their feet that empty out eventually into the sea via rivers and streams.

Stands of conifers and other hardy trees dot the plateaus, along with sturdy grasses and brush. Herds of strange, primordial beasts roam here, followed by the predators and tribes who stalk them. These tribes are mostly humans, goblins, gnolls, or a combination of two or even three, doing what they must to survive in this harsh land. Most still make use of stone, bone, horn, tusk, antler and leather for their implements, along with the occassional wood. Some simply wander, others raid their neighbors, and many do both. A few have small amounts of copper and rarely iron traded from the fierce Frozensoul Dwarves who dwell within the plateaus. Ogres also can be found here, trundling along on their own paths.

Winds perpetually whip across the Frozen Marches, varying from a strange, distant murmur to a howling cacophony. This never-ceasing symphony has driven many outsiders, and even a few natives, into what the Frozensoul Dwarves call jert, or wind-madness (the tribes have have their own names for this, in their own varied dialects). This is a fact the dwarves sometimes use as a form of torture on unsuspecting trespassers...

Tlakuikal Island: High spires of granite jut from the waters edge, the waves breaking about them. The cragged coast, is just a narrow band of black sand. The volcanic obsidian and igneous granite having been subdued by the waves, they slowly erode into the sea. Grand storms sweep across the coast as they head into the expanse of the Frigin Sea. What growth remains on the ridge of the eastern range is snarled and wind swept, the ancient lava flows meandering among them. Clouds blow across from the interior and shift around the peaks, obscuring them from view. Granite reefs extend out into the ocean, collecting their share of ships, lost in the raucous storms of the coast for those who do not know how to navigate the coast of Tlakuikal. Unseen, waiting open, are the passages lurking under the low tide, hidden trails to the interior haunts of the Tecpatl Towers. A wide expanse of lush vegetation is trapped within the rock spires of the island's interior. The valleys are rich. Large waterfalls dump the overflow into the marshes and swamps lying at the base of the western foothills. The great stepped pyramids of the Quinames nestle among forests full of game and workers reaping and sowing grand fields in their drudgery.