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Locations of the Great Waste

by Sirloin

There are many points of interest for a traveller in the Great Waste. There are many hidden treasures, fallen kingdoms and natural wonders for the adventurer who is willing to seek them out. Here are a few of them.

The Winding Canyon

The Winding Canyon is in the eastern part of the broken lands known as the Burning Wastes. It is a vast wound made in the sandstone of the surrounding mesa, and is some 400 yards deep. It is some 4 miles long, and surround by a unclimbable sandstone outcropping. At least that is how it is to the local nomads. The Winding Canyon itself is bright and airy, and would be one of the most pleasant places in the Burning Wastes if it were not for one thing. Spiders. Thousands of them. The webs inside the Canyon reach from the floor to the ceiling above, trapping insects and small birds, feeding the giant spiders that inhabit the canyon. The local nomads steer well clear of the area, as they are extremely venomous, and larger than the normal size. Those who are foolish enough to stray nearby usually end up cocooned within the web, and many desiccated corpses, along with whatever possessions they had with them, can be found within the webs. Deeper within the canyon, however, lurks a very good reason for adventurers to brave the arachnids. A perfectly preserved Nithian temple, dated from the times when much of the Great Waste was colonised by the Nithians. It is now inhabited by the largest of the local spiders, as well as some planar spiders that leaked through the portals that the priests of the temple maintained. When they were wiped out by the Immortals spells, the wards weakened on one portal, and let the planar spiders through. The other portals wards remain, and lead to as yet unknown locations. The existence of the temple is hinted at in various texts of the fallen Kingdom of Josta, and in some ancient Hulean tomes.

The Bitter Waters

In the Central Plains of Fire, water is hard to come by, so any source is valuable, no matter the perils attached to it. One of these is the Bitter Waters, an area of volcanic springs. The water from the springs tastes foul, and the gases that the pools give off is toxic, but the Urduk have found that wrapping their head cloths around their mouths gives enough time to get some of the precious water out before the vapours effect them. However, it is not that simple, as the volcanic springs are home to salamanders and also fire elementals. The Bitter Waters are a stop of last resort for those lost in the desert, or those that find all other alternative water supplies exhausted. But actually getting to the water can prove as deadly as lack of water itself.

Kesret Oasis

One of the three great Oasis' of the Great Waste, Kesret is a paradise in the otherwise barren Sind Desert. It consists of a series of pools, all of very pure water, surrounded by an extensive palm forest. The oasis is perhaps 10 miles long by 8 miles in height, and you can normally find at least 3 tribes of Urduk nomads there at any one time. In the spring and autumn caravan seasons, it is also a major stop on the east/west trade trail. There is one permanent structure at Kesret, a ruined fort, legacy of an ill advised attempt by Sind to expand their influence westward. The fort these days is being rebuilt by the minions of Hule, and is intended as a garrison post for the 100 ogres and 300 orcs that currently occupy the oasis. Clashes between the tribes and the humanoids are common, but the Hulean commanders make sure that it never gets out of hand. They tolerate the brawling as it prevents a larger outburst of violence from the bored humanoids.

The Twin Oases

The other two major oasis' of the Great Waste are often called the Twins, although the are in fact almost 100 miles apart. To the Urduk's, they are known as Yat (northern) and Ardat (southern), named after legendary brothers who first led the Urduk people to the Waste. The northern of the two oasis' is the smaller, being a 100 yard wide lake, surrounded by olive trees planted their by some unknown caravan master. It is essentially a watering stop for those heading south or west. No one stops here for any great amount of time, normally just resting for a day before pushing to the larger of the twins to the south. Ardat to the south though is the nearest that the Great Waste gets to a city, being the great meeting place and trading centre of the desert. The oasis itself is a vast, deep lake, almost a mile across, fed by springs from deep underground, and it is surrounded by a verdant forest of palm trees. Many Urduk faint with shock the first time that they see Ardat, as they could not believe that so much water could exist in one place. The tribes who visit camp under the trees of the forest, and come here to trade and to treat with the other tribes. To the south of the lake is a cleared area which is the location of the Great Market. Here you can find all the goods that the Waste has to offer, from Ankaz leather armour, to Hashtun carpets, to Landar swords and spear tips. There are also resident several merchants from the Known World, with a set of Ylari brothers, the al-Shek's, being the most successful. On the eastern banks of the lake there is one of the true wonders of the desert, the Temple of Djaea. This is the Immortal most commonly venerated by the Urduk, and this is his great temple. Built of pink marble, it rises majestically out of the surrounding palms. Inside, it is open and airy, totally open to all who visit. Almost opposite, on the other side of the lake, work has begun on a new structure, a temple to Bozdogan, paid for by the Master of Hule. His missionaries are a common site at Ardat, often being found in the Great Market, as well as visiting any camped tribes. Ardat sits within a valley, with low hills being present on all sides, and on one of these peaks there are extensive ruins. Analysis of them by passing Known World merchants have revealed that they date from a time when Ardat was not just an oasis, but the entire region was wetter and more temperate. The inhabitants of the ruins were linked somehow to the Urduk's ancestors, perhaps proving that they were not always nomadic as they currently are. The Urduk themselves show no interest in this at all. Ruins are a thing of the past to them.

Asp's Lair

Asparadispexillies is a very large blue dragon, known commonly as Asp. Her lair is a large natural cave within the badlands of the Plains of Fire. The cave is linked to tunnels that delve down deeper under the Plains, but Asp shows little interest, seeing as most of the tunnels are too small for her to fit down. But she gleefully gobbles up anything foolish enough to stray into her lair from below. Asp's range is large, and she hunts across the entire northern Waste, sweeping down on tribes to make off with horses and livestock. Some of the tribes have even begin to pre-empt her attacks by leaving offerings to her tied up outside her cave, but this is extremely hazardous, as it is just as likely that she will eat those bringing the offering. In one instance, she has eaten those bringing the offering, then flown the offering back to the tribe, leaving a note saying "Thanks!" in the saddlebag. She doesn't have much of a monetary horde, but has several items of power secreted in her lair, pilfered from various ruins.

The Broken Kingdom

In the northern Plains of Fire there exists evidence of a large, advanced civilisation that was at some point in the past wiped out. This is called "The Broken Kingdom" by the Urduk, and also refers to the area where the ruins are mainly found. There are three main sites, one a small town, with only a few structures still standing. This has been emptied out many times by various adventuring companies, and there is little left of interest for treasure seekers. The second is a large fortress complex. It is mostly intact and current occupied by a force of hobgoblins from Hule. They stay in the outbuildings though, as any of their number who enter the main keep never come out again. The Urduk view the structure with great suspicion, and refuse to enter its walls. The final ruin is a large city, its ruins spread over several miles. It's walls are in ruins, but many of the other buildings are intact. It is largely unexplored, and is home to a host of monsters, meaning that the Urduk give it a wide berth. Those who have braved the ruins though tell of riches awaiting those brave enough to explore the ruins, and it is certainly of interest to scholars, with the origin of the ruins being unknown. It was obviously an advanced civilisation though, with a network of roads still existing in this part of the desert.

The Golden Plains

The Golden Plains are the stretch of the Waste immediately to the east of Slagovich. It is distinct from the more southerly Konumtali Savannah, in that it is a lot less wooded, and is also more hilly. The Golden Plains are named as such due to the colour of the sun-bleached grass of the plains, giving the entire region a bright yellow hue. The one thing the Golden Plains is known for are its dogs. Packs of wild dogs are common here, and they are of a particularly large size. They are highly prized by the Urduk as wardogs, although actually capturing and training them is a hazardous task. It is not uncommon to come across small parties of nomads here for that reason, rather than entire tribes. The plains are also visited commonly by those tribes who rely on livestock for survival, as the grazing here is better than the rest of the western Waste.

The Sleeping Forest

On the banks of the Silt River, one of the natural wonders of the Waste can be found, a forest of tall trees, one of the few woodlands in the desert, in one of its most unhospitable parts. The trees are of the Jarna variety, and they need very little water to survive. In fact, they only need water every ten or so years. The rest of the time, only the centre of the tree remains alive, allowing the rest of it to die. The same is also true of several varieties of plant found in the same locales, which withdraw beneath the surface for most of the year, only sending stalks and branches up when the rare spring or autumn rains come. This is a time of plenty for the region, and many tribes rush to take advantages of the forest when it does spring to life. The entire life cycle of the forest can be as short as a few days if the rains are few, and the roots of the plants are so deep in search of water, that it is very rare for a tree or plant to actually die, even if it is cut down to the soil by a hungry nomad or goat. The Jarna seeds, which blossom at this time are highly prized for their medicinal qualities, and some of the other plants can be dried to preserve them for several years, whilst remaining edible. Clashes over the region are common when the rains do come, as there is such a short time to gather as much as one can before the forest goes back to sleep once more.

The Masterís Fist

The Masterís Fist is a black, imposing structure on a large hill at the entrance to the Great Pass. Built some 150 years ago during a previous attempt to spread his influence eastwards, it is currently occupied by his forces as a guard against any incursions along the pass. It is there both to allow his forces into the Waste, and also to keep the nomads from raiding Hule itself, although this has become less important since his subjugation of the Menket Tribe. The Fist itself is built from granite hauled down from the Black Mountains, and is composed of a large main keep with five tall towers, the Masterís Fingers. The central tower is the tallest, and a beacon is kept lit there at all time to guide his forces to the fortress from the Wastes. There are also extensive barrack facilities, although some of these are mostly ruined, as the keep has been abandoned and re-occupied several times. It is currently home to around 1,000 humanoids, and 500 of the Masterís elite janissaries. It is ruled by Kemal Akana Pasha, a mage of middling powers who is one of the Masterís main agents in the Waste. This is the main supply depot for armies trekking eastwards, and also serves as the armoury for outfitting the steady stream of humanoids that come south out of the Black Mountains to serve the Master. The hill that the keep sits on is riddling with caves, and contains the ruins of two earlier fortresses built on this site, each built to guard the entry to the pass. Each keep was built on top of the previous structure, meaning that there are many small, cramped chambers, some containing riches, some containing horrible monsters. The Hulean garrison largely ignore these caves, although some humanoids prefer them to the barracks as accommodation.

Seagull Island

The eastern coast of the Waste has few features. It is mainly stony beaches, with the occasional low cliff. Offshore, coral reefs that are largely uncharted mean that safe landing places are rare. Some small islands do exist close to the shore though, although they are mostly uninhabited, but some are noteworthy nonetheless. One of these is Seagull Island, a 3 mile long, 2 mile wide island some 50 miles to the north of the Gulf of Jasta. It thrusts up out of the ocean almost vertically 200 feet, with many caves and gullies having being carved into the rock by the elements. It is home to several massive seabird colonies, which is why it gets its name. The Sindian Plover, the Common Sea of Dread Gull and the Ierendian Puffin all roost here, along the cliff tops and in little nooks and crannies. This island is regularly visited by traders, as there is a natural spring at the base of the cliffs that allows them to take on fresh water, but they also visit this island specifically for one more thingÖ Guano! Highly prized as a fertiliser, Seagull Island is teeming with it, and many intrepid merchants think that braving the cliffs, the elements, the reefs and the Sea of Dread itself is worth it to bring back from of the highest quality guano in the Known World. Seagull Island itself also has one other location of note, The Quiet Temple, which is found on the highest point of the island. It takes the form of four equidistant plinths, around a central alter. Quite which immortal it is dedicated to, or who built the shrine is unknown. The name itself is a joke amongst the visiting guano seekers, as the entire Island is constantly ringing with the cries of seabirds.

The Free Republic of Kalan

Around 50 years ago, two ships carrying slaves from the Savage Coast to Thyatis floundered off the coast of the Great Waste during a great storm. Whilst the crew and guards were busy trying to save the ship, the slaves below decks took their opportunity to free themselves and overwhelm their captors. However, the storm took no pity, and blew them onto the shores of the eastern Barren Plains, some 100 miles south of the Gulf of Jasta. Luckily, the ships went through a gap in the coastal reefs, one that was strangely uniform, and wrecked on a stony beach just to the south of the ruins of a large city. The surviving slaves and crew (none of the guards or merchants survived the uprising and crew) made for the city, and made it their home. There they found several wells in various states of disorder, but thanks to one of their members, a young engineer from Slagovich called Dimtri Espanoza, they soon repaired it. They quickly set about clearing a small area of the ruins near the docks, establishing a community that they called the Free Republic of Kalan. Espanoza was voted the first leader of their Republic, and has been ever since (he is a hale 72 years old now). He rules wisely, advised by a council of 8 others, but his retirement draws near. They survive now mainly by fishing, in boats made from the wrecks of the former slavers, and are slowly clearing the ruins, making them once more inhabitable. They have started working the land nearby as well, which they have found to be hard, but fertile. Clearing the ruins is dangerous work, as there are many undead found sealed in the structures, as many wild animals have made it their home as well. The city seems to have been an outlying colony of the Kingdom of Josta, but its people fell to a great plague several hundred years in the past. The city was abandoned out of superstition, and now has the chance to be born anew. It has excellent dock facilities, with passages carved through the protecting reefs, and the wells are deep and pure. The Free Republic has a genuine chance of survival, if it can just avoid notice by the Urduk, or the Master, and avoid the undead, and passing pirates, and expansionist nations like ThyatisÖ They now number 300 souls, up from the original 100 slaves how escaped, thanks to survivors of other shipwrecks, some exiled Urduks, and remnants of caravans that didnít quite make the entire trip along the coastal trail. They are in a precarious position, but also in a position of great opportunity.

The Empty Throne

One of the mysteries of the central waste, the Empty Throne is the Urduk name for a 2 mile square section of the Burning Wastes that is totally paved by large obsidian slabs. In the centre of this is a large obsidian throne, sized for a giant. There are absolutely no marking of any kind on the throne, and the entire plaza surrounding it is similarly without any clues as to its builders, or its purpose. Several scholars from the Known World have made the trek to the Waste to investigate this curio, but none have come away any the wiser. There has been speculation that it is linked to the Broken Kingdom, but the Throne is clearly not meant for a human, whereas the Kingdom was definitely inhabited by men. The local tribes stay well away from the area nonetheless, and they tell of spirits being seen on the plaza at night, although whether or not this is just savage superstition is hard to tell.