The Searing Desert

General

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The Searing Desert

The Searing Desert is, as the name suggests, a hot and arid region. It begins south of the Aezrikka Zule, which marks its northern and only border to the rest of the continent. The Zule are the first hurdle one has to overcome when entering the Searing Desert from the north. Without the ability to fly or the knowledge of the right paths, traversing these mountains is almost impossible. Using the seas is another way to reach the Searing Desert. While it is almost completely surrounded by tall, coastal mountain ranges, there are stretches of coast where landfall is easy. South of the desert's southern shores lies the Archipelago.

Most of the Searing Desert is inhospitable, almost devoid of vegetation. Only nearby the coasts, rivers, and lakes does barren land make way for lush forests and fields. These habitable areas are populated and viciously protected by the Blazkul Hightribes, who see the Searing Desert as their deity-given paradise. Foreigners are barred entry by force of claws and hence the desert is mostly a mystery to those who aren't part of the Hightribes. Especially the southern regions have never been visited by outsiders.

Geography

Expressed simply and roughly, the Searing Desert looks like a huge, triangle-shaped bowl. Massive mountain ranges almost completely surround it, only a few stretches of easily accessible shore exist. These are called the Ashen Peaks, the Aezrikka Zule, the Fiery Heights, and the Horizon's Horns. The land between these features interesting rock formations, some hilly regions, and a few mountain ranges of small to mediocre size and height. The most common type of elevation are dunes. Most of them are up to 100 m (~300 ft) tall, but a few exceptional ones manage to reach over 300 m (~1000 ft) in height. The flattest land can be found nearby the rivers. Much of it has been artificially flattened by the Blazlin, who use it as farmland, land for forestries, and pastures.

Despite being the most arid region of the continent, many rivers worm their way through the desert, some of which reach enormous sizes. Most spring from the surrounding mountain ranges. Especially the Aezrikka Zule contain a lot of sources; their glaciers and mountain lakes feed hundreds of streams. In spring, due to the melting snow, the rivers swell and step over their shores, flooding the surrounding flat land. A blessing for the surrounding flora. It receives more than enough water and the wet, nutrient-rich mud the water leaves behind when it recedes is the perfect soil to thrive in.

Apart from the rivers, there aren't any terribly interesting bodies of water in the desert. There's plenty of small and large lakes, but none of them have such a massive size that they're of extraordinary note individually. What's interesting about them and the water system of the desert in general is that it's a bit "moody". Sometimes the wind can cause the sand to shift, which in turn forces rivers to adjust their course. In the most extreme cases, this could cause a lake to lose its tributaries. Sooner or later it will dry out. In other cases, a lake could lose its drain. In that case the water level will simply increase, and the lake's size with it, until it finds a new way to drain itself. Naturally these processes take time; they don't happen overnight. Underground rivers exist as well and they can cause oases to sprout up in the middle of the desert. Places of respite and greenery in an otherwise hostile, barren land.

Climate

As expected for a desert that stretches from the tropical to the subtropical zone, the Searing Desert is hot and arid across its entirety. However, the temperatures found in the desert change drastically over the course of a day. When the sun is up, its hot rays bare down on everyone and everything. With the night comes darkness and freezing temperatures. If one is not prepared, they may suffer hyperthermia during the day or hypothermia during the night. The temperature also depends on one location; the northern desert is hotter than the southern one. Yet the southern half is far from temperate; it is simply not as hot as the northern half.

The same applies to the humidity. While rainfall is extremely rare in the inland areas, it happens slightly more commonly near some of the shores. The mountain ranges that surround the desert are partly to blame for this; they block clouds coming from the seas, forcing them to empty themselves on the mountains' slopes far before they reach the actual desert. Wherever the mountain ranges do not provide rain shadow, clouds manage to reach the inland areas, bringing rain with them. This leads to a stark increase in humidity.

Due to its proximity to the equator, the Searing Desert's climate isn't affected by the seasons. There's no monsoon or cold weather. What the seasons do affect is how much water the rivers carry, especially those that spring from the Aezrikka Zule. In spring, the snow that winter dumped on the Zule melts and the excess water makes the rivers swell. The water level rises so high that the rivers and lakes step over their shores, flooding wide stretches of the surrounding flat land.

Apart from the rare rainfall, which can cause parts of the desert to bloom, the most interesting weather occurrence are dust storms. When strong winds manage to find their way past the mountain ranges and into the desert, they pick up sand and dust. They deposit it somewhere else, creating dunes or burying villages with sand. Standing in a sand storm can be dangerous; the particles can get into the mouth, nose, and eyes. Worst is when too much of it gets into the lungs. Suffocation is a terrible way to go.

Flora and Fauna

Multiple ecosystems can be found in the Searing Desert: subtropical deserts, grasslands, and forests, and the mountains. Something all their animals have in common is that they're adapted to intense sunlight and heat, so they don't suffer from sunburns or heatstroke. Some creatures simply have a hide that is able to endure the exposure to the light and heat, others have adopted a nocturnal lifestyle. They hide in the ground during the day, then come out to hunt or forage at night.

The largest ecosystem is the actual desert. In this section, the term desert does not describe the entire region, but merely the areas that truly lack any form of easily accessible water. This utter lack of water makes most of the deserts completely devoid of life. Only in some deserts there's enough humidity for something to grow. All that can grow in them are cacti and similar hardy plants that can make due with very little water. The animals one can find in these regions are limited to a slim variety of various lizards, snakes, insects, and other usually small lifeforms that have developed special methods to acquire water and/or store it for long periods of time. Some of these techniques are rather unique. For example, there's a type of snake that climbs dunes, positions its front half upright, and unfolds large membranes that go along its head and flanks. It uses these to catch the moisture of the incoming sea breeze, which it consumes through specialized skin patches on its sides. The posture it has while gathering water has given it the name rain summoner snake.

The grasslands are much more lively than the deserts. They can be found nearby the continental shores, rivers, and lakes, but the biggest grassland can be found at the southern half of the desert. This region is simply called the Great Grasslands. While the flora of the grasslands is limited to various grasses, shrubs, flowers, and the rare hardy tree, its fauna is very varied. Huge herds of herbivores wander from one body of water to another, grazing, cutting down the vegetation as they go. Amphibians made the marshes their home. Various critters hide among the tall grass. Naturally, such a wide selection of prey also encourages the evolution of predators. Among the most notable are the desert avogs, who stalk the grasslands in packs. These feline-shaped, feathered, reptilian hunters can even be a danger to kul, if they form an especially large pack and are starved enough to dare attack one. Yet the Blazkul remain the apex predator of the grasslands and the entire Searing Desert. Even the desert wyverns with their venomous bite and their perfect camouflage can't best them as a whole, despite being a danger to individual Blazkul.

Naturally, the forests have the greatest variation of both flora and fauna. In addition to grasses and shrubs, they also harbor trees, ferns, bushes, and similar, yet they are not nearly as dense as the rainforest or the forests of the temperate zone. Most of the plants are sclerophyllous and all of them are evergreens, due to the lack of seasonal effects. Many animals have made the forests their home. Birds fly from tree to tree, various small to medium sized animals live between the trunks and some even live within the canopy. Also, the grassland animals visit the forests occasionally, either to get at the rivers and lakes the forests grow around or to eat their plants or those who eat the plants. As implied, the forests can only be found nearby the coasts, rivers, and lakes. The forests that grow along rivers and lakes tend to be very thin and quickly make way for the much more common savannahs, shrub- and grasslands. The largest forests can be found around river deltas and in the Paradise Valley and at the Lush Shore.

Agriculture has heavily influenced the make up of the flora and fauna of the forests and grasslands. The Blazlin have created thousands of square kilometers of fields, pastures, and forestries. Artificial ditches and canals spread water around the desert, making once barren regions habitable and suitable for the growth of crops and the keeping of animals. Crops and cattle make up a large portion of the Searing Desert's ecosystem, if not the majority. Another large influence are wildfires, both natural and artificial. They destroy forests, allowing grassland to take over temporarily while the forests regenerate.

The last ecosystem to be detailed here are the mountains. Technically, they should be split into two ecosystems: The arid mountains and the less arid mountains. Simply put, the mountains that face the sea see far more rain than those in the west. In fact, they receive so much rain that proper forests can prosper on the mountains' slopes and the valleys between them. Here plants and animals can thrive. Many of the creatures that live in the mountains are very similar to those that live elsewhere in the desert. Avogs still hunt in the shrubland valleys for example and the Blazkul and wyverns gladly occupy lairs among the mountains. Naturally there are also beasts that are native only to the mountains, such as medium-sized mammals that are adapted to braving the rocky slopes to reach tasty shrubs. The herds they form tend to be much smaller than those of the grasslands, due to the smaller stretches of traversable land and the overall lower food supply. Phoenixes are another species that can be primarily found in the mountains; they inhabit the slopes of volcanoes. The more arid mountains are more like mountainous deserts and are hence rather barren and almost devoid of life. Some are lucky to have a bit of grass and shrub and the corresponding fauna on their oceanside slopes, but that's about it.

Overall, despite the aforementioned rather lively ecosystems, the Searing Desert is a mostly barren region. However, the areas that do harbor life contain it in many different shapes and a whole lot of it.

Natural Resources

The Searing Desert provides well for all of its inhabitants, both the wild animals and the sapient ones. Hunters will find plenty of up to very large game on the grasslands and up to medium game in the forests. Unfortunately, hunting within the Searing Desert is rather dangerous due to the various predators. Some of them are not afraid of going after lone hunters or small hunting parties. Fishing isn't much safer with the various amphibian and reptilian predators lurking in and by the water, but it's very rewarding. Plenty of fat fish live in the broad rivers, forming large schools that can be caught with nets. The oceans are also stuffed with fish that live by the surface, so the Blazlin commonly head out there with ships to try and catch as many as they can. Smoked and salted, fish lasts for a long a time and can even feed a kul.

Apart from their meat, the animals of the desert also possess tough scales, hides, and bones. Some animals also give milk. The Blazlin keep very large herds of cattle around to feed the Blazkul that live with him, hence said milk has become a very important part of their diet. It's a common drink as well as an ingredient in plenty of dishes. Wool can also be sheered from some animals, but it isn't of a very high importance in the desert due to the heat. At night, people tend to simply stay at home around a fire instead of putting on thicker clothes. Beyond the products that can be gathered from or made out of the various animals, they also have uses as a workforce or as mounts. The cattle the Blazlin breed are also used to drag their carts, for example. Avogs are used as war mounts, even if it takes quite some effort to breed and train them.

The flora of the Searing Desert is also very useful and has already been domesticated by the Blazlin. Various kinds of crops, such as grain and flax, are grown on large fields along the banks of the rivers. There's even a plant that produces a form of silk. It takes a lot of effort to harvest it, making it very expensive. Yet some of the more luxurious hightribes do bother cultivating it, because the fiber is pretty, easy to dye, and comfortable to wear. Additionally, there's some herbs that help with curing diseases or preventing inflammation, while others can be smoked or otherwise consumed to produce a pleasant, calming high. Alcohol can easily be produced within the desert as well. The hightribes have acquired quite a taste for wine made out of desert berries.

Keeping crops in the Searing Desert isn't as difficult as it may at first appear. If enough effort is invested into digging irrigation canals and ditches, the barren desert can be turned into very fertile land. Due it being hot year round, it is possible to harvest most plants twice a year and sow them whenever. Grain and utility crops such as cotton and flax are the most commonly cultivated plants. Fruits, drugs, and vegetables are usually grown in small orchards and gardens instead of being grown on a large scale.

Onward to building materials. Lumber is more or less easily acquired. The trees of the Searing Desert are good enough to build houses with or make furniture and various other wooden items out of them, but most of them aren't terribly useful for large building projects such as ships or large buildings. Hence the Blazlin create and tend to large forestries to grow just the trees they actually require. Thanks to artificial irrigation, this is possible on a large scale. Despite the forestries, it's still more popular to use adobe bricks for housing, because clay and suitable earths are so easy to acquire. Stone is used only for very important buildings, such as walls or temples. Quarrying in the desert mostly yields lime- and sandstone. Marble can be found as well, but it is rather rare. Granite is usually dug up in the mountains.

Ores can be found in those mountains as well, even more commonly so than in the sandy desert. While copper and tin are available, they are not always available in the same place or in great amounts. This has made the production of bronze rather difficult in the desert. Iron and lead are much more common and can be found in all the mountain ranges, even within those that are located in the center of the desert. Gold and silver, while overall rare, can be found in especially large amounts in the southern regions of the desert, mostly the Ashen Peaks. Coal can be found in the desert as well, but unfortunately only in rather small amounts. Producing charcoal has hence become a very common practice. Crude oil and tar can be found in the desert as well. Oil is used to fuel cheap lamps and lanterns. Tar is used to caulk boats or as a form of binder. All in all, plenty of useful resources can be found in the Searing Desert.

Known Locations

Sand dunes and rocky wastelands as far as they eye can see is what primarily awaits those who enter the Searing Desert, but there are also a lot of interesting locations that are worth visiting. Many of them are artificial, created by the Blazlin and Blazkul, but there are also plenty beautiful creations of nature. Such are canyons, oasis, various pretty rock formations, and mesas. That's just what one can find in the actual deserts! There's also the various river deltas, the mountain ranges, and of course the grasslands and forests. Nature has certainly equipped the Searing Desert with a certain subtropical beauty and various wonders.

As mentioned, the Blaz have created various sights as well. The Hightribes inhabit the Searing Desert since thousands of years, hence it's not at all difficult to find traces of civilizations. All kinds of communities can be found, from huge, fortified cities to small clusters of adobe houses. The smaller settlements always seek the proximity of the larger ones for safety reasons, so it's practically impossible to find lone villages. Blazkul and -lin are warriors by heart and have waged countless small and large wars against each other without remorse or mercy. Ruins are thus not an uncommon sight. Especially shortly after one of their more massive wars the desert is littered with the burnt remains of hamlets as well as cities. Once such a war is over, the hightribes' populations grow again and they begin colonizing the land anew. Settlements sprout up there and there, until once again they've reached a critical point and another massive war ensues. It's a constant cycle of war and peace that de- and repopulates the desert. However, not everything the Hightribes build is destroyed during these wars. They have managed to build many structures that have lasted for hundreds, even thousands of years and will continue to exist for a much longer time. Said structures are usually temples, monuments, and castles. Summed up, there's plenty to see in the Searing Desert and currently it's rather densely populated. As a result of the latter fact, the Searing Desert is at the brink of another massive war.

Natural Locations
Ashen Peaks

The Ashen Peaks are a large mountain range, located at the southwestern coast of the Searing Desert. It marks the border between the Daunting Waters and the land, extending along a coastline that's more than 3000 km (~1800 mi) long. The Blazewhips, Firehorns, and Emberspikes own a third each, which has led to the Ashen Peaks being a major battlefield in multiple wars. This mountain range is of a high strategic importance, because it contains a lot of iron ore and hard coal. There's copper and tin as well, but in smaller amounts and primarily in the northern half. The southern half is richer in gold and silver, which is quite a boon to the Emberspikes who love to live luxuriously.

The geologic origin of this mountain range is the collision of an oceanic plate and the continental plate that carries the Searing Desert, which led to a lot of volcanic activity. Multiple stratovolcanoes continue to erupt even today, but the eruptions aren't very strong. They at most make the earth tremble a bit and spread ash across the nearby mountains, hence giving the Ashen Peaks their name. The name is quite an exaggeration; the entire mountain range isn't completely covered in ash. It isn't extraordinarily tall either.

What is extraordinary about the Ashen Peaks is how arid their core and eastern half are. Due to the mountain range's position on the far western end of the continent, its eastern side doesn't get any rain. The winds, which primarily come from the east, don't bring any clouds because they travel across great stretches of land prior to reaching the Ashen Peaks. Due to the aridity, the eastern half is basically a mountainous desert and almost devoid of any flora and fauna. This has made it mostly inhabitable for the hightribes, which in turn has made it a great retreat for desert wyverns. The Ashen Peaks are notorious for housing hundreds of them, hence they've become a primary target for Blazkul who want to fight a wyvern.

The western half of the Ashen Peaks is better off, because of its proximity to the coast. Clouds readily form above the warm water and sometimes travel eastward only to rain down on the western slopes and peaks of the mountain range. The rainfall creates lakes and streams around which grasses, shrubs, and some animals have managed to establish themselves. More importantly, the rain causes rivers to spring from the Ashen Peaks. These are crucial to the Blazewhips and Firehorns. A lot of blood has been spilled to claim their fertile shores.

Fiery Heights

The Fiery Heights are a long range of coastal mountains that separate the Searing Desert from the western ocean, which is known as World's End. Ownership of the Fiery Heights is split between the Emberspikes, Fireclaws, and Flamewings. All three hightribes readily fight over control, due to the rich iron deposits hidden underneath the mountains. Apart from iron, the Fiery Heights are also a source for various other metals, such as tin, copper, gold, and silver. Lead can be found in rather large amounts in its northern parts.

The mountains are primarily volcanic in origin and rather active, which has granted them their name. Minor eruptions are rather common. They blow smoke and ash into the air, blackening parts of the mountain range. Larger eruptions that blast molten rock skyward and send lava running into valleys in streams happen more rarely, perhaps once every year across the entire range. While this may sound dangerous, one has to keep in mind just how massive the mountain range is; an eruption at its southern end leaves the norther end undisturbed for the most part.

Despite the eruptions, the Fiery Heights are a very lively area. Winds coming from the east, so from the ocean, blow heavy clouds across the mountains. When they rise to get over the peaks, they fade, turning into rain. Hence rainfall is rather common on the eastern side of the Fiery Heights, which makes it quite humid. Dense forests grow there and the excess water gathers in mountain lakes which feed many rivers. Next to the Aezrikka Zule, the Fiery Heights are the largest supplier of water for the Searing Desert. The abundance of water makes them habitable space and thus even more strategically important. Especially the Flamewings have built huge, sprawling communities in the mountains. The second best fliers of Threa simply love living among the peaks. As a last note, the eastern half of the Fiery Heights is more arid, hence less densely overgrown and populated.

Grakkata

Grakkata is a volcano. It's located a bit to the west of the center of the Searing Desert. All of the Hightribes who believe in [FLAME] consider this volcano holy; they think their deity's heart lives in it. Hence the volcano has to be protected! Foreigners might try to extinguish it or taint it with the influence of their own gods. Beyond its religious value, Grakkata also contains some ore and a lot of stone that's suitable for building.

The Emberspikes currently control Grakkata and the few low mountains nearby. They even set their capital - Victor's Home - up right next to this small volcanic mountain range. Said city includes the Great Temple of [FLAME], the largest holy structure dedicated to [FLAME].

That a sprawling city can exist nearby the volcano is only possible because it isn't terribly active, despite containing a huge lava pool, and because the Searing Desert's largest river flows right by it. Thick forests and vast shrublands exist at its banks. An extensive network of canals and irrigation ditches allows the Emberspikes to create huge farms, pastures, and forestries to feed and supply the nearby capital. That the area around Grakkata is so green is seen as a sign of [FLAME]'s influence and might, in the eyes of Its believers anyway.

Great Grasslands

The Great Grasslands are the regions located straight north of the southern coast of the Searing Desert. They're entirely controlled by the Emberspike Hightribe. Yet the number of communities in this region isn't extraordinarily high, because there aren't more permanent sources of water here than elsewhere. So, the region overall is more humid than the rest of the desert, but in spite of that isn't more densely populated. It is still rather important to the Emberspikes, because its climate is perfect for the farming of desert berries which the Emberspikes turn into a sweet wine.

While the name may indicate that the region only consists of grassland, it actually is a thick band of grass-, shrub-, and light woodlands. Due its proximity to the southern coast it benefits from the rain clouds being blown up towards the Searing Desert from the Archipelago. The more common rainfall more fruitful that most of the desert. It truly is a large shrubland that blends into a proper savannah the closer to the coast it gets. Big herds of large herbivores move through the lands, making this land a great hunting ground for various predators. Avogs prowl the grasslands, preying on said herds just like the Blazkul do. The plenitude of huntable animals has made the Great Grasslands a "bread basket" for the southern tribes of the Emberspikes.

Heretic Peninsula

The Heretic Peninsula is located on the far western end of the Searing Desert. It's under the control of the Firehorn Hightribe and has been for many centuries, which is where its name stems from. The Firehorns do think that [FLAME] exists, but say that It is a false god and shouldn't be followed. It should be destroyed. Hence the followers of [FLAME] consider the Firehorns heretics, thus their peninsula is the Heretic Peninsula.

Overall, this peninsula isn't terribly special or interesting when compared with the rest of the Searing Desert. It borders the Horizons' Horns, the northern edges of the Ashen Peaks, and the Lush Shore, and it has two major rivers. It's a relatively humid and fertile region, because it's close to the Lush Shore, so it receives some of the rains coming from the Rocky Sea and the Starless Jungle. The rainfall primarily influences the northeastern quarter of the Heretic Peninsula; the rest is very arid and only fertile nearby the rivers.

Horizon's Horns

The Horizon's Horns are a small mountain range located at the northern end of the Heretic Peninsula and hence under the control of the Firehorn Hightribe. Just like the other noteworthy mountain ranges of the Searing Desert, the Horizon's Horns have a volcanic origin. However, unlike the Ashen Peaks or the Fiery Heights, there is no volcanic activity in these mountains currently. There isn't a single active volcano. This makes it safer to mine it, because there's less earthquakes. A boon for the Firehorns, who excavate primarily iron, copper, and lead from these mountains.

Its ore veins aren't its only use. Its proximity to the equator, the fact that its located on the northern coast, and the fact that its surrounded by the seas on three sides have blessed it with a lot of rain. Plenty of small rivers spring from the Horizon's Horns and their slopes are overgrown with trees and bushes. The Firehorns have even adopted terrace farming to fully exploit the fertility of this region. Rice has become an important part of their people's diet ever since. Most of it is transported to Openwaters Harbor, a city at the base of the Horizon's Horns, to feed its tremendously large population. Summed up, the Horizon's Horns may be the smallest of the three major mountain ranges, but it's very useful to its owners.

Lush Shore

The Lush Shore is the only northern coast of the Searing Desert. It's located between the Horizon's Horns and the Aezrikka Zule. The Blazewhips control the eastern two thirds of the Lush Shore, while the Firehorns control the western third. Being the most fertile region in this chunk of the Searing Desert, it is of a very high importance. Countless battles have been fought in its forests and on its grasslands between the Blazewhips and the Firehorns; both are trying to control the entire strip of coast.

It's so fertile because rainfall is comparatively common here, because the clouds forming above the Starless Jungle and the Rocky Sea are often blown across the shore. The humidity has caused lush forests and vast, dense shrubland to sprout along the coast, hence the name. Unlike the Great Grasslands, wildfires aren't much of an issue here usually. The ground and plants are usually not dry enough for that.

Paradise Valley

The Paradise Valley is located at the far eastern end of the Searing Desert, right by the coast, between the northern fourth of the Fiery Heights and the eastern end of the Aezrikka ZUle. It's the domain of the Flamewing Hightribe and guarded with unwavering determination. The vicious Flamewings hold it so dear because it feeds the grand majority of their population and hence is their most important chunk of land. Nowhere else in the Searing Desert is the density of farms and pastures so high.

It is truly a paradise because water is very abundant in this region. Many rivers flow through it. Many spring from the Fiery Heights, but even more come from the Aezrikka Zule. They and the rain bringing winds coming from the seas in the east make this region much less arid than the rest of the desert. The coast itself can even be considered humid. A huge, verdant forest has claimed most of the valley, granting it its name. The rest is covered in savannah, shrub- and grasslands.

Settlements

Disclaimer: This section is not a complete list of all cities, villages, etc. in this region. There may be more, despite not being mentioned here.

[TO BE DETERMINED]

These Settlements will be re-added after the Blazkul Hightribes pages have been worked over.

Notable Structures
[TO BE DETERMINED]

These structures will be re-added after the Blazkul Hightribes pages have been worked over.