The Dead Basin Desert

One does not enter the desert without clear purpose, for to do so is to invite death. The swirling sands and unrelenting sun confuse the mind. Without clear purpose, and a strong will to keep that purpose in focus, one is sure to be lost. And for one lost in the desert, a quick end as a Sandrunner meal is better than dying of thirst.
— proverb of the Chittiki Sandfolk
The Dead Basin Desert is a vast expanse of shifting and blowing sand. It is roughly triangular in shape, and is bordered by mountain rangest to the east, west, and south. The east and west ranges approach each other at the apex of the triangle, though they do not meet. This leaves a gap providing passage between the desert and the grasslands of Lanlokan. The region stretches almost a thousand miles east to west at its largest point, and even longer north to south.

In the center of the desert, a vast body of water can be found. This water is fed from springlike sources deep below its surface. This water is highly acidic, and hence poisonous to almost all life.

There are no settlements of the Folk to be found within the desert itself, and there are no known permanent oases. The Duagan Delve known as the Sandhold is located in a large mountain at the southwest corner of the desert. The Chittiki homelands, and their vast tunnel city known as the Warrens is situated along the eastern edge of desert where the mountain foothills begin.

History

At the time of the Awakenings, the lake at the center of the basin was filled with pure, clean water. Life teemed in the lake and around its shores. The lands to the south of the lake supported forests dotted with open plains of rich, green grasses. The land north of the lake was always more arid, but at this time, even this "desert" was rich with animal and plant life. As time passed, the forests receded somewhat as Chittiki, Alev, and Duagan people living there made use of the lumber. But the region remained green and full of life.

All this changed during the Great Strife, when the Gods of Coercion acted to poison the lake. Suddenly, instead of clear, pure water, the springs that fed the lake began to bubble up sulfurous, foul poisons. Life in the lake died first, followed swiftly that along the shores. By the end of the war, very few plants and animals were left alive in the basin. The sand dunes began to blow and smother everything until the desert became what it is today.

Climate and Weather

Because of the shape of the basin, the mountain ranges that ring it, and the one gap in those mountains at the northern edge, the wind patterns within the Dead Basin Desert tend to move in a sweeping clockwise circular direction. These overall wind patterns result in the dunes of the desert seeming to move perpetually in the same clockwise circular direction around the vast lake in the desert's center.

Occasionally, though, cyclonic storms can arise in the desert as well. These storms, which some folk refer to as "desert hurricanes" can be deadly, with winds in excess of 100 to 150 miles per hour (160 to 240 kph) blowing sand grains that can strip flesh from bone in minutes. These storms can last for days, moving clockwise through the basin propelled by the overall wind currents. The longest one, according to Chittiki records, spun for three weeks, and during that time it circled the basin six times before it dissipated.

Also occasionally, much more localized, but even more deadly, tornadic storms can arise. Though generally only a few tens of feet to at most a few hundred feet across where the wind funnels hit the ground, these winds can reach speeds of up to 300 miles per hour (480 kph), forming a visible cone of swirling, deadly sand. Fortunately, these storms rarely last more than a few minutes, and traverse at most a few miles of distance as they rapidly pass through an area.

Ecosystem

The ecosystem is best described as a completely arid wasteland of shifting sand dunes. The dunes shift constantly, like super-slow-motion waves on the sea. The circular patterns of wind in the basin mean the sand does not pile up anywhere, either... it continuously circulates around the basin.

Not much can grow or live in the desert itself. Along its edges, near the foothills of the mountains that contain it, some scrub grasses can be found. Insect life seems to thrive along the edges, with biting sandflies and other, larger creatures not uncommon. Prior to the Great Strife, the desert was much smaller, occupying only the triangle of territory north of the vast inland sea that sits in the very center of the basin formed by the mountain ranges. During the god-war, the springs feeding that lake were corrupted by the Gods of Coercion, acidifying and poisoning the waters.

Flora and Fauna

Flora within the heart of the desert is essentially nonexistant. Along its edges, near the foothills of the surrounding mountains, sparse grasses and scrub can be found.

Fauna is only a little bit more prevalent. Animal life along the edges of the desert consists mostly of small insects and tiny burrowing mammals that were introduced to the world by the Chittiki gods. With two or three notable exceptions, the inner reaches of the desert are completely devoid of life.

One of these exceptions are the two speices of Sandrunner. The One-Frilled Sandrunner Lizard is a huge, fierce beast that is feared by any that have a need to traverse the desert dunes. Their cousins, the Two-Frilled Sandrunner Lizards can be equally fierce, but have proven to be domesticatble. These are used extensively by the Chittiki as beasts of transport and burden, and are often seen fitted with rigs called caravaners.

One last notable exception is a creature the Chittiki call the Spitter. This fearsome amphibious beast is the only thing that can survive the waters of the Dead Lake.

Natural Resources

Natural resources - apart from sand itself - are quite rare in the desert, though there are two materials that can be found nowhere else on Cartyrion. The first of these is a particular variety of mineral salt whose crystals grow on rocks found along the edges of the Dead Lake. The properties of these crystals are not widely known, but they are relied upon by the Chittiki society known as the Preservers of the Beasts . They apparently imbue some degree of tolerance to acids, and allow the Preservers to successfully subdue the feared Spitters without killing them. This allows them to successfully "milk" an acid secretion from glands in the creatures' mouths - a secretion that is the second notable natural resource of the desert.

This acid is exceptionally powerful, capable of dissolving gold and etching diamonds. Chittiki craftsmen - and those very few non-Chittiki who have learned their arts - use these to craft jewelry with an intricacy no others can approach.

Credits

Banner Image and left panel of page background by Greg Montani from Pixabay
Right panel of page background by kevberon from Pixabay

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