Lying in the southernmost part
of the Sarvonian continent, this great desert
occupies most of the Santharian province of Truban
and part of Brendolan. Though there are some wetter places in the south like
the Cloud Forest near Varcopas, the peninsula near
Thalambath and the plain of Uderza, the desert is
the main and dominating feature of the south of the continent. To the east and
south are the coastlines of the Burning Sea, and on the west the Aetryam Sea.
The only large settlement in the desert itself is Rahmat. On the Ráhaz-Dáth's edges are located Strata, Thalambath, Uderza and Bardavos, the last belonging to the province Brendolan.
The most prominent features are the volcano Norong'Sorno, north of Thalambath, the Mountains of Nirmenith, containing the famous Oasis of Nirmenith, the Great Sand Dunes in the east, the Yar‘Dangs north of Strata and the Makadi Gadi Salt Pans in the middle near the Nirmenith Mountains.
Though in most parts very arid, the desert has an abundant wildlife and is by no means lifeless. Both animals and plants are adapted very well to the conditions there.
The main group of humans living in the Ráhaz-Dáth are the Shendar, a mainly nomadic living tribe whose members are the only people who have the knowledge how to cross the beautiful, but hostile landscape. Other races are not known yet to live there.
Introduction. Unforgiving heat over vast sands rises in ripples against a pale, cloudless sky. The desert aguia, using the ascending hot air, circles with motionless wings over a land which stretches for ever, coloured with light yellows and soft browns. There is no visible water to reflect the eggshell blue sky and bring a sparkle to the landscape. At this height the wilderness is frightenly flat, though a white peak is visible in the misty distance as well as the promise of an abundance of water in the other direction. The aguia is soaring higher, lonely in the emptiness of an endless sky over the Ráhaz-Dáth...
Deep down in the sands yellow lidless eyes are waiting patiently, hour for hour in the heat of the day; covered with hot sand the ráhaz'estar is waiting for a passing prey. Then suddenly there is a movement the surprised eye can barely follow. White fangs blink in the light of the Injérŕ and death has come to a careless kara. - There is a scampering - high pitched noises can be heard - maybe the eye catches a glimpse of brown fur. The aka‘lols have witnessed the death of the kara and are striving for their safe burrows.
Image description. The Lightning Drake enjoys sitting on a mountain top in a lightning heavy thunderstorm. Picture drawn by Seeker.
Grey storm clouds race overhead and the hot winds swirl beneath the darkening
sky. Sand grains are whirled around, lightning flashes and thunder rumbles in
the approaching black heart of the clouds. In the distance the rain is white.
Birds are tossed around like leaves from a far shore. Suddenly it is quiet and
calm and the rain falls. As the clouds move on a rainbow appears, the storm has
passed and it is soon hot again.
Description. The desert covers most lands south of the Narfost Plain, except the wetter region around Bardavos and the cultivated plain of Uderza, the cloud forests near Varcopas and a small piece of coast near Thalambath. The whole region is arid to a varying extent and rainfalls occur in most places only occasionally. All types of deserts can be found here; the half arid lands with perennial rainfalls and open water availably the whole year in some places, to truly arid regions with nearly no rainfall at all.
All life in the Ráhaz-Dáth has to be adapted to the arid conditions. So the animals have either developed a complicated migration system if dependent on a open water source or can survive without water at all. Aestivation or dormancy is a common means to survive longer drier periods. The plants usually meet the needs of the animals and often a single individual provides a whole ecosystem for several different animals.
Location. Lying in the southernmost part of the Sarvonian continent, this great desert occupies most of the Santharian province of Truban and part of Brendolan. Though there are some wetter places in the south like the Cloud Forest near Varcopas, the peninsula near Thalambath and the plain of Uderza, the desert is the main and dominating feature of the south of the continent. To the east and south are the coastlines of the Burning Sea, and on the west the Aetryam Sea.
|Map description. Map of the Ráhaz-Dáth desert in the southernmost part of the United Kingdom of Santharia. Click on the names on any of the places to read more details about the various different parts of the map. Picture drawn by Artimidor.|
Different Parts. The Raház-Dáth consists of the following different parts, which are listed below:
Mountains of Nirmenith
This mountain range covers the whole north of Truban and reflects the diversity of this province. Not only are the mystic and enchanted Cloud Forests of Varcopas part of it, it also encompasses the harsh beauty of the volcano Norong'Sorno with its special climate and the nearby parched region of the Lands of Pain and Death. Apart from the volcano, it also has the highest mountain tops of southern Sarvonia in it's central region with the mighty Nirmenith as its highest point, which change over to the lovely hills near Uderza. Between the Cloud Forest and the central mountain stock the Aj'nuvic Grounds surprise with a diversity of plant and animal life. But nothing matches the famous Oasis of Nirmenith, the lush waterfalls there, the wild river Nirmenith which cascades down in the swamp of Oka'Serí, an inland delta of which the myths say that this is the place where the gods let their dreams of plenitude came true. [Back to the Map]
The Aj'nuvic Grounds represent a central highland valley north of the Nirmenith mountain stock. It is a half arid region with low-moisture adapted plant and animal life, most can only be found here due to the special climate conditions of very hot days and extremely cold nights, the occasional abundance of water and the persistent dryness.
This region is also the main mating ground of the Nirmenith aj'nuvics. There is also a secret trade route of the Shendar to the south to Thalambath. Access only possible from the north through a hidden canyon and the south leading to the Lands of Pain. Gets drier and more hostile the more southerly one travels. [Back to the Map]
Central Mountain Stock
Highest elevation after the Norong'Sorno volcano on the southern Sarvonian Continent. It is the barrier for most of the clouds coming in from the Aetryam Sea. Most of the rains fall there, creating a huge water reservoir for the dry desert on both of its sides. Thanks to the height some of the precipitation is stored as snow or ice and so available over a longer time span. [Back to the Map]
Oasis of Nirmenith
In the very heart of the Nirmenith Mountains an oasis of unexpected, overwhelming beauty can be found. The water of a circular lake with unknown depth supports a fauna and flora which is restricted however to a small space only. Steep mountain slopes falling directly into the lake don't allow much room for plants to grow. But the limited space is countered by the plenitude and beauty of the flowering vegetation. It is here that the famous temple of Baveras in the middle of the lake can be found, which can only be seen fully when the water level falls to its deepest point in winter. It is rumoured that also here the rare mineral can be found which is added to the pottery of which Uderza is famou . The water of the Nirmenith Oasis escapes through a narrow outlet and forms the Nirmenith River which cascades down in the swamp of Oka'Seri. [Back to the Map]
Swamp of Oka'Seri and the Flood Plains
The Swamp of Oka'Seri is an inland delta formed by the Nirmenith river, which expands periodically covering the sands of the Ráhaz'Dáth and bringing life to the central desert and the Maka Gadi Salt Pans. While the delta always retains a certain amount of water and never falls dry, the floodplains are dry the greater part of the year.Only after the spring rainfalls they fill up gradually with water. A grassland evolves till the water is fully evaporated and the landscape falls dry again. [Back to the Map]
Picture description. View on a Shendar caravon approaching the Norong'Sorno volcano. Image drawn by Seeker.
Lands of Pain
The Lands of Pain are the most hostile part of the Ráhaz-Dáth. Here rainfalls are extremely rare, the heat rises to its maximum. Nevertheless it is a fascinating landscape. The lesser volcanoes next to the Norong'Sorno are part of it, as well as the high, steep rocky red pillars with the endless sandy plains between them. Despite the hostile environement, a few animals and plants can be found here, but it is a hard life, even for the ráhaz'estár, the giant rock snake. [Back to the Map]
A small area of lovely hills near Uderza, at the foot of the Nirmenith Mountains and at the edge of the desert. The special sand/clay mixture called Aerth which Uderza uses for its famous pottery can be found here. [Back to the Map]
The Open Woodlands are located south of the plain of Uderza and Bardavos, stretching nearly to the east coast, is a unique forest. It grows better near the mountains due to more rainfalls with widely spread trees farer east. In the west the special composition of the fine clay soil supports the denser Mo'Colo woodlands. The caterpillars in this rosin tree forest are of special interest to the Shendar, for their pupal form provides them not only with a delicious snack, but are the source of the fine Shendar silk. Further east, the rosin trees give way to the dari'i trees and others which grow in deep sand. Because of their clay soils, the Mo'Colo woodlands have pans which hold water well into the dry seasons when the rainwater of sandy regions has long disappeared. [Back to the Map]
Great Sand Dunes
Region stretching from the rim of the Nirmenith Mountains to the Burning Sea in the east, covering the whole east of the Raház-Dáth , down to the Makadi Gadi Salt Pans and even further, until the Yar'Dangs. This is desert in its purest form, hot sands, merciless sun - and blue-green jewels of desert lakes in the very midst. [Back to the Map]
Here the desert sands build up into huge dunes, up to five hundred peds high over which the wind blows constantly, driving them forward so that they migrate like slowly-moving waves. But even this seeming barrenness will surprise the traveller: Where rainfalls occur sometimes, they are partly covered with shrub trees, whereas the valleys between may only have a cover of seasonal grass, giving evidence to occasional flooding. [Back to the Map]
Dry River Beds
The valleys between the big sand dunes show often some vegetation, grass at certain times of the year, some trees with deep reaching roots which show that there has to be some water flowing in the soil buried deep under the sands. These features are mostly found in the northern parts of the Great Sand dunes, and are probably due to water coming from the Narfost Plain and running underground. [Back to the Map]
The so-called Seven Jewels are a miracle in the midst of the hot desert: Lakes with relatively fresh water, with a very small rim of green around sparkle in the midst of high sand dunes. In autumn this water gets quite brackish and is barely drinkable, so only some salt resistant plants survive. However, after heavy rainfalls in winter the water level rises up to three peds and the water gets clear and fresh. Then the surrounding green rim flourishes, seeds sprout and for some time food is available in abundance. [Back to the Map]
Makadi Gadi Salt Pans
With one edge lying close to the Oka'Seri Swamp, the Makadi Gadi Salt pans are regularly flooded. Run-off from the Nirmenith or occasional rainfalls will fill them up to a height of about a fore. The evaporating water leaves behind spectacular crystals and cakes of salt, creating (when dry) a nearly lifeless region in the middle of the Raház-Dáth. Flooded however they are exploding with life, being a feeding ground for the abundant ái'metrá, and thus to the ái'metrá's predators. [Back to the Map]
Strange rock formations, up to 500 peds high, consisting out of white and yellow granite, three days ride north of Strata, stretching nearly vertical to any path leading from the northern part of the desert to Strata and forming a kind of labyrinth. Hence everybody needs a guide to find through, because these rocks proceed into the sea forming there dangerous shallows which make it impossible to simply take a boat to get around them. At the southern rim water is found which vanishes soon in the desert sands, till it reemerges in the wells of Strata. [Back to the Map]
People. The only people
who live in the true desert are the nomadic
Shendar. They are the only ones who
are able to find the paths through the hostile environment and can live
self-sufficiently within it. Rah'mat, the only large settlement within the
desert, is a town without fixed houses. Instead, it is made up of a varying
number of Shendar domed tents, and is
therefore able to move and without fixed location. The desert provides nearly
all the Shendar need: their food,
water for their grazing animals, the clay for their pottery and the salt they
sell to every place in Santharia.
It is not known, when the first human nomads arrived to live in the desert regions, but some sages assume, that it happened very early, already long before the Age of the Awakening. The first settlements in the few wetter regions may have started already over two milennia b.S., the now huge town of Thalambath, sitting on the fertile base of the volcano Norong'Sorno being probably the first settlement.
Human history, however, didn't - apart from the Atonement - affect the desert itself. Interested readers can find it here. It is said however, that the after-effects of the Atonement on the desert were cause of the Shendar's rising powers and their eventual excluding monopoly of the desert paths. In the year of the Atonement , so the stories go, they found their true partner in conquering the desert - the aj'nuvics and their relatives, the aka'pis. Though they knew both animals well already and had used them, they discovered their real value in these difficult times and the bonding to the aj'nuvics was deepened then. With the bond to these desert beasts the Shendar became true masters of the desert and started to change its appearance, though very little in the beginning.
Strata was founded in the year after the Atonement, and Drafas Tristin might have not chosen this place to found a settlement, if he had known that the green appearance of the place and the abundance of water was only an exception to the rule and would cease after a few years.
Climate. All the rain, all the precious water, which enables life in the Raház-Dáth, comes from the northwest with the winds from the Aetryam Sea, be it with the yearly rains starting in the month of the Turning Stars and continuing till the beginning of the Awakening Earth, or as an occasional heavy thunderstorm drenching a region which haven't seen water for years.
Most of the clouds coming in release their water at the tops of the Nirmenith Mountains or the Norong'Sorno. Rains fall gently over the hills of Uderza and the Uderza Plains during the winter months, but some clouds drift farther on over the open woodlands, building up into threatening heights, and may release their rain over the Makadi Gadi Salt Pans or the Jewels in the east or just pass on and leave the thirsty soil unrelieved.
According to the availability of the rain the regions in the Raház-Dáth differ in their dryness:
Semi-arid regions are the Aj'nuvic Grounds and the Nirmenith Mountains with perennial rainfalls, but these regions stay dry half of the year.
Arid regions with perennial rainfalls are the Open Woodlands south of the Plain of Uderza and Bardavos, the Norong'Sorno region: The volcano itself is partly wet due to the special weather conditions.
Arid regions with no or only occasional rainfalls: Makadi Gadi Salt Pans, the Lands of Pain west of the Salt Pans, the south with Strata and the Yar'Dangs, the east with the "Jewels", the desert lakes of the Raház-Dáth and the whole region of the great sand dunes east and south of the Makagadi Gadi Salt Pan. Part of these regions however benefit from water transported in the underground from wetter regions where former riverbeds may have existed.
Permanent water is found in smaller oasis throughout the desert at special hidden places, most of them only known by the Shendar. Best known is the Oasis of Nirmenith with the adjacent Swamp of Oka'Seri. The only permanent flowing water system is the Nirmenith River rushing down from the Oasis of Nirmenith to the Oka'Seri Swamps building an inland delta there.
The desert conditions - the changing availability of open water and food - force
both, animals and human alike, to move forward
to use the sometimes scarce resources wisely and avoiding their exploitation to
So migration paths have developed; the desert beasts, which depend on open water have to look for the remaining water holes in a seasonal wandering, the others not dependent on open water have to change grazing grounds nevertheless to find new unused pastures. Thus the grazers follow the growth of grass from one place to the next, and with them their hunters.
The Shendar, a human nomadic living tribe, wander from oasis to oasis and are very careful not to overgraze one place. So a very complicated migration pattern has developed which has still to be researched thoroughly to be understood completely.
Flora. There are many familiar trees and plants in the wetter regions of the Raház-Dáth mentioned above, though the Cloud Forest of Varcopas might still hide some surprises. But the true plants of the desert are those adapted to the aridness of the landscape. They have all one thing in common; they have developed something which enables them to keep their water or prevent the loss of it or both. So they either can store it for several years - like the adan'sonia trees or some of the su'cu family, or they have reduced their surface area to prevent water loss and thus have nearly no leaves. Where water isn't this scarce or the roots are reaching deep, leaves with sun protection of different kind are seen as well.
Fauna. Despite appearances and expectations, the fauna of the desert is plentiful. There are first the big deer-like beasts like the ar'bez, the g'nu and the aka'pi, the oryx and the ellez'ga, which mostly wander around following the seasonal pattern of available food and water. Following their prey are the big hunters like the oracau, ju'bat, the brown á'neayh and the ly'caón. Other, smaller mammals which are independent of open water sources may move around as well for the search of new food sources - some, however, stay at the same place all year round.
But these animals are only the most prominent ones. The smaller may be even more abundant, like the striped kara living near mil'no forests or the whole family of the rodents with all its relatives, the mice, the lizards, the snakes and other odd desert creatures.
Then the birds: There are thousands of them, either permanent guests or just visitors on their way from Aeruillin to the colder north, resting in the water filled salt pans and fishing for the abundant ái'metrá. The greatest number of individuals, though, are the insects, the base of the food chain. An important role is played by the tér'tér, which will sometimes consume up to half of the available dry grass and forcing the grazers to move on, but being themselves food for bigger animals and providing shelter for others in their large mounts.
The Ráhaz-Dáth animals have different means to cope with the lack of water. Most beasts hunt or graze only at dawn or by night and rest during the heat of the day. The big predators get most of the needed fluid over their prey; the grazing animals who depend often of dry grass are able to concentrate their urine so as not to lose much fluid. So the sand mouse, for excample, doesn't urinate at all but eliminates just a few damp drops. The most adapted beasts go into aestivation during the hottest and driest weeks, reducing so their need for food and water by slowing down their body functions.
Resources. Talking about resources depends always on the special perspective of who asks and what that individual considers valuable. So the plants, for example are very interested in the resource water, but not interested in the jewels lying under their roots. There might be a rare mineral lying buried in the mountains of Nirmenith, that would be valuable for the Northern dwarves for hardening their weaponry, but not for the Shendar with their armour made out of the skin of the giant rock snake. So the following description of the resources of the Raház-Dáth is only from the
perspective of its human inhabitants, the Shendar.
Water and Food
These resources are mainly described above under Climate, Fauna and Flora. Of special note here are two animals, the aj'nuvic as a personal friend of any Shendar, the aka'pi as a domesticated animal which is essential for the long caravans through the desert. Special plants used for trading are the mil'no, a plant used for hygienic purposes and in'cent and mh'yrre as spices sold to the whole world. The toccon tree and the vhin, which is used for export, also are no true desert plants. The Shendar silk made with the help of the mopane caterpillar is famous throughout Caelereth. The medical use of seeds and roots and other parts of the plants are innumerable.
Minerals you can find in the Ráhaz-Dáth are mainly clay and salt. Clay used by the northern tribes is found near Uderza, and deep in the mountains of Nirmenith in places only known by the Shendar. The salt of the Makagadi Gadi Salt Pans is harvested by the southern Salt People.
But other minerals are found as well: Semi-precious jewels of different colours can be seen in the Yar'Dangs, silver in the Nirmenith mountains, a special kind of salt or salty water is collected near the Norong'Sorno and sold as remedy for different illnesses. Some Shendar are said to have managed even to sell green sand, found near the volcanoes on the beach there - to artists in Bardavos who needed it for special artistic effects.
landscape this grandiose and various in its appearance was cause for the
creation of many myths and much lore. Most are in the oral tradition and of
Shendar origin, but some are known in
Some of these stories are related to the landscape itself and involve the participation of one God or another, some are pourquoi tales referring to the origin of an animal or plant, and many have some
direct connection with the Shendar. Here are a few of the most famous:
History. Only myth can tell us how the Raház-Dáth was created, though "The Legend of Thalambath" mentions the major impact of the War of the Chosen on the landscape itself. But there are two major historic events which affected the Raház-Dáth: the Atonement in the year 1649 b.S. and the outburst of the volcano Norong'Sorno some 600 years ago, though the explosion of the Norong'Sorno affected only a small region and is not comparable to the disaster of the Atonement.
Information provided by Talia Sturmwind