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Sarducaa

Sarducaa

[zar-do-kaa] /tsarˈdʊ kɑ/

To the southwest of Myrland lies the continent of Sarducaa.

It shares its northern border with Nordveld, but like so many other pieces in Nave’s broken puzzle, the two landmasses bear the marks of a violent past. Although still geographically connected, a traveler will find them practically separated by the walls of a steep canyon. Sarducaa is harsh: five of its six different areas are unforgiving deserts, the sixth an impenetrable jungle. At the same time it is also a landscape of contrast.

Among the dunes and ergs there is hidden beauty and mystery, rich resources, and life that seem to defy all odds. Bos, the Sardish word for desert, means empty, however the inferential meanings of the word are just as important: free, vacant, available. The Sarducaan people do not see the deserts as lifeless or lacking in resources, they are just devoid of people. So far.

Venture into Sarducaa to discover Beth Jedda, the city from which the nation of Sarducaa was born. To march further south into the hazing dunes and reach the old village of Pash, or the mountainous settlement of Belrim, you will need to know the oases and stay clear of the most scorching zones. Find shadow, mountain springs and strange ruins among the jagged cliffs of Arg Kepher, but be aware that other shadow-seeking denizens are hiding in its caves. If the deserts are unbearable, go north and descend the flowering cliffs of Yar Harika to find an undiscovered jungle wetland that is equally rewarding and severe to expeditions.

Then there is Bos Kam – the corrupted desert in the mountain crater known as the Glass Furnace, but to venture there you’ll have to be mad or desperately greedy. No matter where you go, with the right preparation and mindset the emptiness of Sarducaa can be yours to conquer, develop and be made to flourish.

Just remember, you have been warned.

The Sarducaan continent

“During the day it’s like being slowly roasted alive. At night, it’s colder than in the mountains. There is sand as far as the eye can see, and a horizon that cannot be trusted. The dunes move. There is no water, and should you find some it is salty, or it rots your stomach. The creatures are deadly and inedible. The sand may look like gold, but we have found nothing of value for a hundred leagues. Absolutely nothing. We have lost many men now, almost half of the cohort. The glorious Empire has no business here, Legatus. I beg you again, let us join you in the north or send us home.” - Primus Pilus Caius da Ofta, 127 AT, Epistulae Assarida Omnibus

The Sarducaan continent is vast, and is generally divided into six or seven regions. Five of them are deserts, the sixth is a jungle, which is varied enough to sometimes account for the seventh and last region. In the middle of the land is the Arg Kepher massive, a large mountain with surrounding smaller peaks, terraced plateaus and jagged cliffs. The climate is sometimes surprisingly different between the regions, and an average temperature for the continent would be very misleading. In general, any precipitation is scarce except for in the jungle and during the Iri’tzemach.

Iri’tzemach – the Great Growth

Yar Harika is the great ridge that cuts diagonally from each to west through the whole of northern Sarducaa. The height of this cuesta prevents rain clouds and the humid northern winds from reaching the arid regions of the south, making them instead waste their precious water on the already damp cliffs and the wet jungle below.

This means the deserts of Sarducaa would be more or less constantly dry if it wasn’t for the irregular reversal of wind that brings about what is known as the Iri’tzemach. What triggers this phenomenon is unknown, but specific changes in weather conditions make winds and heavy clouds suddenly drift in over the lands from Yam Batili, the Western Sea. On average this happens about once every two years, most often during the winter season, but it is highly unpredictable and may happen twice a year, or not at all, sometimes not even for a decade.

When the rain finally comes however, it changes just about everything. Out of nowhere springs grass, cacti, flowers and small trees, and animals such as lizards, toads and even fish thrive in the sudden springs and pools. For a restricted time Bos Koch turns into a savannah, and Bos Selah becomes like a cliff delta, complete with a large lake below Arg Kepher.

Among humans this is a season of gathering, hunting and feasting, but it is also a time to be extra careful in the wild. Landslides, mudflows and flash floods are common, and the weather brings an excessive amount of thunder, lightning and sometimes storms with giant hail. The season always ends with the Kharakeem, where impossibly large number of insects in all sizes swarms the lands, eating all life in sight. The tribes in the wild take to caves which have been prepared during the Iri’tzemach for this very reason, and in all cities there are special tunnels and buildings offering shelter.

Bos – the deserts

The Sardish word Bos means empty, however the inferential meanings of the word are just as important; free, vacant, available. The Sarducaan people do not see the deserts as lifeless or lacking in resources, they are just devoid of people. So far.

There are a number of different types of desert in Sarducaa, each having its own range of distinctive features in climate, flora and fauna. That said, there are no established Sarducaan classifications of what exactly constitutes a desert, and not all of them are actually deserts in the strict sense of the word.

Vaha – the oases

There are a number of places in Sarducaa where water can be found in otherwise completely dry regions. Whether this water comes from aquifers, wells, or mountain springs, the resulting watered area with its vegetation is called an oasis, a vaha. Not only do these vahas play a very important role in the ecology of the deserts, they are also of critical importance for human travel and trade.

Several of the vahas have a small seasonal population centered around trade and caretaking of the oasis itself. Without the caretakers, drifting sand and especially sand storms pose a constant risk of covering or otherwise ruining the vaha, which is why they are treated with a great amount of respect. Even those who don’t use any of their services usually pay them a small tribute when passing by. Water may not always be available through all seasons though, and when there’s no water the residents usually leave. This means that most travels are planned according to the location and current state of the oases, including the unpopulated smaller ones, as the shelter and shadow, water and food they offer are so important for man and beast alike.

Among the tribes is an ancient code of conduct, a Nang, that states that no fighting, hostility or even bickering is allowed near an oasis. In old times this tradition, the Nang Vaha, also included any act of drinking water – which meant that for instance combatants in the middle of a deadly fight allowed their opponents to pause for drinking. During the Krrft Wars this custom got abandoned, but in recent times many respected and honorable fighters have taken it up again.

The most important oases for traveling are Vaha Bedia (normally called just Bedia) on the way down to Aur, and Mayim Ayak, almost strategically located in the center of the triangle consisting of Beth Jedda, Belrim and Pash. Vaha Drom near the coast in Bos Koch is vital for the wildlife hunters in the region.

Bos Ruah – the Breathing Desert

To the northeast lies the great Bos Ruah. Ruah is a word that can mean wind, breath or soul and the desert has gotten its name because of the many winds and storms which tear its dunes, and because of the low-pitched breathing sound it sometimes produces. It is covered in large, golden orange sand dunes that very slowly climb from the eastern coast of Yam Hizli up towards Beth Jedda and central Sarducaa.

Before the Conflux, when the great bridges to Myrland and Nordveld still linked the three civilizations, Vaha Kuzey was an important junction on the route. The oasis is located northeast of Beth Jedda close to the two bridgeheads, travellers between Myrland and Nordveld often ventured the extra distance into the desert for provisions and exchange of goods, without the need of acquiring visiting permits for Beth Jedda. Nowadays its sand filled ruins are mostly forgotten, although the oasis is an essential part of the ecosystem for the flora and fauna of Bos Ruah.

Khwar Migdal is the comprehensive name for the ruined settlement, fortification and bridgehead on the northeast coast that once supported Tekton’s Bridge leading to Myrland. A march up the cliffs to the north leads to Gecit Yarad – the ruins of an equally important bridge which spanned the canyon between Yar Harika and Sur Querah, the lowermost part of Nordveld. Although it is possible to descend Yar Harika in many places, Sur Querah’s vertical, slippery surface is impossible to climb.

Climbing aside, the only road down Yar Harika is the the one between Beth Jedda and Aur. This route goes through the Bedia oasis, a small permanent settlement on top of the Yar Harika cliffs. Although the road down the cliffs is constantly maintained, the climb is rather steep and difficult for caravans, so Bedia is a good place for resting and accommodation. A couple of large hoisting devices take care of cumbersome goods, and sometimes people or animals, during the most difficult passages, for a fee. Visiting the stores in Bedia is a comfortable but costly way of buying supplies from Aur without having to make the full journey.


History

The Sarducaan Empire and its literate scholars are very young, which is why there are very few reliable sources of the ancient history of the continent, even of the time leading up to the Conflux only a few hundred years ago. Most of the contemporary sources are from Tindremic expeditions or conquests, but as the once great library of Tindrem now rests at the bottom of the sea the chronology is very fragmented and the whole picture unclear. Yequedah, the Magi priesthood in Yesil, claims to have a comprehensive record going all the way back past the Conflux to the Sundering of Asterra, which may or may not be true, however as no outsiders are allowed into their temples what little information they give out may be as made-up as any myth. A brief summary of Sarducaan history therefore needs to rely on questionable, sometimes contradictory sources, legends, modern archaeology and so on. It is important to remember the above circumstances whenever reading about anything having to do with the time before the Conflux and the pre-Sarducaan Empire era.

The Sundering and before

“Nature hath altogether taken away certaine Lands: and first and formost where as now the sea Corallis is, it was sometime the Continent for a mightie space of ground. The very earth hath devoured and split her selfe: Thus, she disjoyned Haeres Balteus, Lycia and Myro Lanarius, and from all those three, Boreamontes and Assarida, as if the very stronds and Continent were not to be trusted, but they also must worke hurt and mischiefe.” – Marcella I, Naturalis Historiae, Liber II, XCI

It is believed that in ancient times Sarducaa was home to a civilization known as the Pari which perished during the Sundering of Nave, a fate somewhat similar to that of the great Sidoian culture. The sculptures and images that have been found of the Pari seem to depict a tall and slender Alvarin-like species, but no clear Alvarin records or stories exist of such a race. The few structures they left have withstood time rather well and resemble the Sheevran style of shaping stone into almost organic forms.

At least one, but possibly two other cultures inhabited the lands at the same time. They were both human, and one is believed to be the ancestor of modern Sarducaans. There are ancient ruins from the time before the Sundering with similarities to later styles of Sarducaan construction which seem to support this theory. The other was the seclusive Khurite Bediai tribes, who do not use permanent settlements. No one knows for how long they have roamed the continent, but according to their songs they have been there long enough to have experienced the actual Sundering.

While the history of Sarducaa’s civilization is vague, its geographical and biological past is virtually unknown. It is possible that the continent was once a lot greener and more temperate before the Sundering, as traces of such a biota has been found in at least a few places where the sand isn’t that deep, or on rocky terrain. At the same time, probing for sand depth in the sand oceans have turned out to be impossible in several regions as they are simply too deep, so deserts seem to have been a natural component of Sarducaa for millennia.

The Sundering must have had a great geological impact on Sarducaa, but unlike Myrland the continent didn’t crumble or tilt as much when Sidoia descended into the Coral Sea. Instead Tekton’s Fault broke off quite far away from what is the modern coastline, meaning the western part of the Inner Sea is free to continue south and become Yam Hizli, an ocean strip with extreme currents between the coastline and the fault.

It is possible that the Yar Harika escarpment was created during the Sundering due to the extreme forces acting upon the southern region. Other popular theories are that it is much older, or that it came about as an effect of the creation of the Kamin Mara crater, the past of which is a great mystery in itself. The three dominating theories are a meteor strike, some kind of volcanic eruption, or a great explosion, but when this great event is supposed to have occurred is so widely debated it would be impossible to give an estimate.

The new continent

The time immediately following the Sundering is not much clearer than the time before it. Belrim and Pash are generally regarded to be the oldest major settlements as they stem from this time, together with at least two in the Arg Kepher massive which later perished or were abandoned.

With the construction of Tekton’s Bridge came the Tindremenes, and their surviving sources are what contain most of the information about this time. However the Tindremenes never showed much military interest in Sarducaa, which they called “Assarida” (amalgamated from Assus Arida, “roasted dry”) – a slang word for the almost inedible dried fish served as part of the Tindremic army’s rations. They immediately started the construction of the bridge to Nordveld, and when it was finished moved on north. Aside from a few small battles and the occasional military or scientific expedition they left the rest of Sarducaa almost untouched for centuries. In general the Tindremic army seem to have shunned the deserts with their strange phenomenons, alien creatures and skirmishing tribes. An important part of this was perhaps that the unforgiving climate made their heavy armor unwearable, thereby rendering much of their military tactics obsolete. Thus, the biggest historical impact the Tindremenes had on Sarducaa seems to have been the somewhat left-handed capture of Beth Jedda much later, and of course the construction of the great bridges with their lucrative new trade routes to Nordveld and Myrland.


Zanthenes

Shortly before the Conflux the Tindremenes conquered what would eventually become the city of Beth Jedda. This was during the peak of the Tindremic sovereignty, when the empire (who had been at war with Nordveld for centuries) launched the Nordveld Invasion campaign in an effort to reach and conquer Branth. Several such campaigns had been launched before in smaller scale. The settlement in the desert had a rather offhand location, yet somehow it managed to attract the Tindremenes’ attention. It may have been part of a plan to set up a permanent base for gathering of provisions, or perhaps it was just a way for some Consul to gain political points.

It is uncertain how big the city really was at this time, however it’s known that most of it was abandoned after centuries of migration due to declining water levels in the oasis in its centre, and few riches remained. Most inhabitants seem to have been part of a zealous and introvert cult of fire worshipers occupying the vacated temples, and the Tindremenes met with very little resistance, but on the other hand gained nothing from the takeover.

After the triumphant capture, the city was crowned Zanthenes – the Yellow Gem – and victorii Otho Ramentus marched on to new glorious conquests”, according to the records, and a Procurator was now needed to govern what was essentially a scorched hole in the middle of nowhere. Common political skullduggery and chicanery ensued, and eventually a free-thinking and troublesome Consul from the Tricapita by the name of Calva, or Calvatia (the full name is lost in the annals) was selected. However this Calva happened to also be a rather resolute and ambitious woman, who took it upon herself to rebuild and restore the destitute city even though she had little or no help from Tindrem. Barely a year later, after consulting the Augurors and hiring Huergar prospectors, a new well was miraculously found and dug out.

Aside from being an absolute necessity for the city to grow, the new well turned out to have a surprising impact on the few remaining zealots. Having never seen red hair before, an old prophecy about Labbah Quarachath, “The Flaming Bare Head”, meant they already found the Procurator and her red curly hair utterly fascinating (although the “bare” part didn’t really make sense). Now, as the prophecy also told about a “Second Water Age”, the new well cast all their doubts aside and euphoric worshiping of the Procurator ensued, right along with their sacred fire. Whether it depended on the Procurator being charmed, nervous, or both, the cult was given free passage and land in the nearby oasis of Yesil, where they immediately begun construction of a temple in her honor.

Labbah Quarachath

More than three decades passed, and during what would become the final chapter of the Invasion of Nordveld, Zanthenes caught the eye of the Empire yet again. At this time the city had become a known sanctuary for deserters and radicals, and as the army desperately needed every man and weapon (and Huergar prospector) a full legion was sent to its gates with the orders to “…seize every Tindremic traitor – nay, every wretched being walking on two feet – and herd them headfirst into Rimfrost’s Gorge. Pile them high.” To their surprise the emissaries of the legion met with a blooming city, rather well-fortified walls, and of course the former Procurator, which no one seemed to have remembered, now going by the name Labbah Madar. Although heavily outnumbered and facing total annihilation of the city unless she surrendered, she blatantly refused to give up any citizen. According to the notes of the emissaries, to demonstrate the fierceness with which her people would defend their jewel, she lit her head on fire by sticking it into a brazier, firmly eyeing them until the flames had consumed her every hair curl. This clearly insane act apparently made such an impact on the Tindremenes that they turned the legion on its heels and left Zanthenes to a different destiny.


The Sepats

Pash

After miles of walking through the extremely barren and flat landscape of Bos Horba, the contours of Pash appear as a real oasis on the horizon. The village is situated above a particularly sharp escarpment plunging straight down into the ocean of Saar Dalga a hundred meters or so below. It is as if the village has been cut in half by an ancient landslide, although due to new construction it isn’t that apparent nowadays, unless for instance one looks to the outlines of the ruined city wall.

According to the records, Pash is one of the oldest settlements in Sarducaa. The old Tindremic scribes refer to the city as highly advanced with a complex watering system, large plantations and systematic animal herding, however little of that can be seen in the modern village as nowadays Pash survives on its highly lucrative fishing commerce. From the city centre, steep stairs and strong hoists leads down to a well-developed harbor with many piers housing fisheries and cooking establishments.


The Cultists

The Cultists are a fanatic tribe located in the monastery ruins near Arg Kepher. They are literal believers of the prophecy that a blood red moon, called Lona Macta, will bring the end of the world. It was told by the cultist prophet Luz the Enlightened* before the continent was united under the rule of the queen in Beth Jedda. He was the leader of a band of desert raiders that roamed the nomadic settlements, conquering the trade of Krrft and the loyalty of the nomads by fear and bloodshed. The cultists believe that Luz was visited by an Akrep spirit which told him to prepare for the Blood Moon by the sacrifice of the unbelievers’ mothers before his own time in the desert would end. Luz preached his prophecy to his raiders and ordered them to gather all women from the nomads. Even young girls were taken to his camp, as they were thought to already been tainted by heretic seed. Under long and sadistic rituals he had drained all the captives’ blood into a large bowl, in which he bathed and meditated. Not long after the bloodbath a man called Ibn Kazar came to his camp and singlehandedly slayed all the raiders who stood in his way and took Luz with him to the arch of Bos Talia, where Luz was beheaded.

The cultists think of him as the first martyr for the true belief and that the beheading was proof of his prophecy. They praise the prophecy by cutting the limbs of heretics and leaving them to bleed out in the sand. All bleeding is believed to be a sacred act and they cut their own skin during meditation.

Though they are fierce warriors in battle, they have also been known to kidnap young Goriax and Intrepredius spawns and raise them to be guardians of the monastery grounds. To subjugate and make the spawns obedient, the Cultists torture them until adulthood. They then mutilate the adults by severing their arms and bind large sharp blades on the stumps. The gruesome and tedious act of transforming these beasts is done by the Cultist curators and is called Val Gora, which roughly translates to “troll cutting”. By sending young disciples under cover all throughout Sarducaa they receive valuable information on what is happening outside the monastery. They see themselves as all knowing and are rumoured to always be aware of unwanted travellers near their grounds and therefore are impossible to surprise attack.

(* = He was known as Luz the Hideous in most parts of Sarducaa.)

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