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DESERT OF SKULLS

The Desert of Skulls is a vast, arid expanse of steppe land, rocky-broken wastes, and sandy desert that is situated on the western coast of Allansia, between the lands of Old Allansia and the isolated nation of Arantis. It extends at its greatest from the Windward Plain in the north to lands of Arantis in the south and takes several weeks to ride across. Around its fringes the climate in temperate and the land dry but habitable, however the interior is inhospitable and deadly. At its western edges the sea has carved the coastal mountains known as the Roaring Wastes into fabulously shaped buttes and mesas. The wilderness is rocky and irregular, littered with immense boulders and carved time and time again by the courses of dry river beds thta flow with water only once a decade. Further inland, the rocky ground gives way to sand dunes that rise like enormous waves.

Within these endless wastes great treasures are rumoured to be hidden among the ruins of cities like the legendary Vatos, but few adventurers would be so foolish as to try to cross them without an overwhelmingly good reason. Even the rampaging Lizard Men OF Silur-Cha have some difficulty adapting to the searing heat of this waterless wilderness. Around the northern fringes of the Desert of Skulls, traders and nomads trek on camels, trading with the people of Shazaar, on the main route of Salamonis and also bringing goods to the few settlements of the northern edges of the Plain of Bronze, but they do not go far into the desert, for they know how inhospitable it is. Few dwell within the desert but predators and other creatures have adapted themselves to life in such a harsh climate. The main danger in the Desert of Skulls, however, comes from the Caarth.

For more than a millennium, the Desert of Skull have mainly been inhabited by the vile, evil race known as the Caarth. The Caarth, who are the major race of all those known collectively as the Snake People dwell only in the very hottest parts of the Desert of Skulls, for they are cold-blooded creatures who need warmth to survive. It is this basic need which has kept them from encroaching on more temperate lands and spreading their cruel dominion to more populated areas of the world. Within the Desert the Caarth have constructed their own citadels, carved from the solid stone of desert rock-formations, and established their dominance over a wide area of the region. Indeed, there are not just Caarth any more either. They have been joined by the fearsome Justrali, the snake-tailed serpent guard, who patrol the very edges of their domain, bringing slow, painful death to any who dare trespass on the land of the Snake People.

In Allansia, the Snake People (a generic term for Caarth, Justrali and other assorted snake-mutations) dwell for the most part in large stone citadels, though every oasis in the heart of the desert has its own small settlement of Caarth, who usually dwell under canvas in a manner learnt from the human nomads who dwell on the fringes of the Snake People's territory.

Their main settlements are the citadels of K'rrstal ('Heart of Glimmering Stone'), S'turrak ('Cool Providence of Shadows and the Caarrh capital), S'hchtiss (jewelled Oasis of Sighing Worship'). There are also about a dozen small fortifications in a wide ellipse around these three citadels, each of which houses a garrison of Caarth and Justrali warriors and little else. The merchant Voloidon Carsak lived in the citadel of S'turrak, but believed that the other two were much the same.

S'turrak is built into the side of a large mesa, a massive block of stone several leagues across which rises several hundred metres above the level of the desert. From its highest towers it was said that one could see those of S'hchtiss glimmering in the sunlight, many, many leagues away. Indeed, the Caarth used to communicate with heliographs, mirrors which they would flash in the sunlight according to specific codes, relaying messages via the watchtowers and oases between the cities.

The citadel of S'turrak is a bizarrely designed place, with dozens of towers and walls, around which run many spiralling staircases and ramps. At its base, on the desert floor, its inhuman builders constructed a series of walls and gates thick enough to withstand the assaults of the most determined enemy - though none has ever attacked it. The Caarth builders had previously bored deep into the rock behind the citadel, to create a warren of large, cool chambers in which their young were able to hatch in complete safety, and where many slaves were kept when not being put to work elsewhere. Although they are not always good designers, their skills at working rock are nearly a match for those of Dwarfs or Skorn.

The power of the Snake People has been on the wane in recent years, for they have been penned into the desert regions by the colder climates of the northern and southern lands, and they have had little new territory to overwhelm. They are also using up their supply of slaves from the subhumans who live on the fringes of the Desert of Skulls, and cannot roam further afield for them. In Allansia, Lizard Men have been creeping ever closer to the edge of the temperate wastes known as the Snakelands, which divide the Desert of Skulls from Vymorna on the edge of the southern jungles. The Lizard Men may have been held at the Siege of Vymorna for a short while, but it can only be a matter of time before they push towards the territory of the Snake People. When this time comes the fighting will be fierce and bloody, as the whole of the southern lands will be plunged into war.

Important Notes:

The Desert of Skull is an extremely difficult region to explore and the very nature of the desert can make it difficult to traverse to all except those highly skilled in AFF: 2nd edition Desert Lore and Pathfinding. The depths of the desert are especially difficult to navigate Travel and only those with experience of this Special Skill will be able to navigate through the tremendous, dehydrating and burning heat, avoid mirages and avoid sunstroke. In the depths of the desert, the region becomes even more dangerous and in areas the deadly Caarth themselves may be encountered or sand or dust storms may develop (roll 1D6; roll the same number of dice equalling the total; add the scores together and the grand total is the number of hours the storm lasts).Many types of creatures inhabit the Desert and these can prove helpful or deadly:

Random Encounters
Roll three dice on the table below:

Dice Roll Encounter

3___________None
4___________Basilisk
5___________Giant Lizard
6___________Merchant
7___________Serpent Guard
8___________Fiend
9___________Poisonous Snake
10__________Decayer
11__________Needlefly
12__________Giant Scorpion
13__________Giant Sandworm
14__________Sand Devil
15-18______Caarth

About this Entry
Indexes: Alphabetical: D
Last updated: September 2009
Background: Allansia: A Travellers Sourcebook, Titan: FF World; Temple of Terror, Page 159 AFF: Allansia
Completion: September 2009

 

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