Sea of Fire
The Sea of Fire is a desert located within the Turamzzyrian Empire, near Seareach. The Sea of Fire is bordered by Mestanir and Jantalar to the north, Mensyl Keep and Nydds to the east, New Myssar to the south, and Solhaven and Vornavis to the west. It was a vast wasteland surrounded by mountains and verdant wood except in the south-southwest portion, which is primarily rolling hills leading to Brisker's Cove and the sea.
The mountains along the periphery of the Sea of Fire cause extraordinarily hot, dry weather in the area, and little rainfall is seen throughout the year. The only seasons are "dry" and "less dry". For three months of the year (Eoantos, Eorgaen, and Lormesta), light rains sweep the area in the afternoon, but they are short-lived and leave very little moisture behind as they rapidly evaporate. Seldom is there a cloud in the sky except during this three-month period, when towering clouds build up with the threat of impending rain.
Sandstorms bring blinding, stinging sand and fierce, heated wind. Any remaining winds are gentle breezes, except for the phenomenon occurring twice a day, at sunrise and sunset, when the winds increase in strength for an hour. The Sea of Fire gets its name from this desert wind effect. Because of the angle of the light at those hours, and the translucence of the sand grains as they capture and intensify the sun's rays, a fiery aura is created. The shifting wisps of sand appear like dancing flames, hence the name "Sea of Fire."
Another phenomenon of the sand dune area is the "singing" sands. They produce a low, thrumming "boom" sound -- not caused by the wind, but due to the lighter and more uniform grains of sand rubbing against heavier grains beneath them as they drift.
In the morning, the sunrise casts mostly deep golden hues, but pales out as the day progresses. The washed-out sky changes again with sunset, which is much more colorful as the rose-gold tone deepens to carmine streaked with wisps of orange and purple.
Nights initially provide a welcome relief from the extremely high temperature, but quickly become unbearably cold and uncomfortable. Any radiant heat bleeds off into the atmosphere soon after nightfall, and it remains cold until dawn. Within half an hour of the sun climbing up from the horizon, the desert grows hot again.
Frequent sandstorms cause the massive sand dunes to shift often, making any attempt at map making difficult. Generalizations can be made by triangulating stars either by using objects on the horizon, like distant mountain peaks, or with the great ancient monoliths found in the expanse. A system utilizing the position of the constellations at night during the various seasonal skies is also favored.
Much of the dune sand is a deep tawny hue overall, a result of the iron ore and feldspar content contributed from weathering and ancient river deposits. The individual grains are milky, clear, and black.
The water table is predominantly deep below the surface and inaccessible for sustaining life. Even in the sparse locations where the water table does come near the surface, life will only flourish if the water is fresh. In many cases, the water is too salty to be drinkable.
Underground springs feed oases that sparely dot the desert landscape. The oases where fresh water can be found are the gathering places of the desert. These rest stops along travel routes provide help with mapping, since firmly established outposts are no longer prone to being buried in sandstorms. Shallow wells ensure water is accessible even in drier years.
Aside from the crumbling ruins rumored to be found near the center of the region, there are a handful of Imperial outposts near oases in the desert, established to support the Imperial copper mines. The only other buildings found in the desert consist of ceilingless walls of sun-baked mud bricks surrounding smaller oases. Built to provide communal shelter for traveling caravans, each corner or point (as some compounds are polygons) features a watchtower. Inside, a variety of colorful tents and lean-tos take up much of the available space, and as permitting, anywhere else will be filled with livestock.
Cliffs of pale limestone and earthy sandstone rise from the Sea of Fire where it meets the mountains. Wind erosion has carved deep, horizontal gashes, creating natural ledges. Within some of these recesses, earth and stone box-shaped shelters attach to each other like cells in a hive, open at the top and fashioned with crude doorways and windows. Rock overhangs serve as a roof for the entire community. The complexes are accessed by a series of tree-branch or rope ladders that zigzag from one outcropping to the next, alighting at the common areas frequently used for cooking and ceremonial activities. Cliff dwellers enjoy some protection from the harsh winds, sand storms, and heat at this protected elevation, and ladders can be removed as one climbs up to thwart enemies.
In general, snakes, reptiles, scorpions, and other scaled or hard-carapaced creatures fare well in the desert climate. Rodents, arachnids, moths, butterflies, worms, kangaroo rats, and birds of prey also populate the area. Their ability to camouflage themselves in the desert is key for survival.
The morduska, also known as the dune glider or sand ray, is a reptilian carnivore that lives strictly within the windswept dunes of the Sea of Fire. Strongly resembling a stingray, the morduska can range in size from a mere handspan to the size of a barn, though the larger ones are usually only seen by their victims. The sand ray's mouth is positioned at the very center of its dorsal surface. Hiding beneath the sand, the ray waits, unmoving, until its prey has wandered across its surface. When they prey nears its mouth, the sand ray raises up, pushing its victim toward a mouth filled with inward-curving fangs. Morduska change location only during sand storms.
Sand sliders, also known as the selshis, are reptilian carnivores of the desert. The sand slider travels in the side-winding action of some of its serpentine cousins but in a vertical orientation, hence its name. Selshis are able to reach high speeds due to a minimized amount of contact with the surface traveled over. Selshis blend into the tawny sand they live in. They often travel in groups, with two or three selshis waiting to ambush until the first makes its initial attack. Survivors of selshi attacks were usually able to escape before the pack made its secondary attacks.
The sand flea is destructive due to its numbers and relative size. They can grow to the size of a halfling's fist, and have barbed legs and thick shells. It is a Tehir custom to eat the fleas.
Qahzumar resemble the scorpions and whiptails found in other Elanthian locales, but in place of claws it exhibits suckered tentacles. The qahzumar's origin is rumored to be unnatural and doubtlessly entwined with the legends of dark magic that are part and parcel of Bir Mahallah's doom.
The sikuust, or desert earwig, is a uniform ebon color. It is often as tall as a giantman and only a handspan thick. It can bite and inject acidic venom from either its anterior or posterior mandibles. The subsequently liquefied innards of its victim are then drawn into the earwig through the same hollow portions of the mandibles that conducted the acid to the victim. While the earwig primarily targets insectoid prey, the process can produce quite painful and debilitating effects upon mammalian victims as well. Sikuust are commonly encountered along the edges of the dunes and among the rockier expanses of the Sea of Fire.
Ridgeweavers are small spiders that travel from one dune ridge to another by casting out gauzy strands of gossamer silk that catch the predawn breezes and waft the dainty creatures aloft. They are considered to be good luck by some Tehir. They are preyed upon by many of the larger desert insects, rodents and birds of the desert.
A yierka is an omnivorous reptilian quadruped with the manners of a camel and the attitude of a perpetually angry feline. The mount of choice by most desert warriors, lesser specimens are commonly used as beasts of burden by those Tehir who frequent areas of the Sea of Fire that are too inhospitable for camels. They have thick plates that protect them from sandstorms.
Cactus, groundcover plants, and scrubby brush are the most common forms of vegetation found in the Sea of Fire desert -- more prevalent in areas where water sources are closer to the surface, such as oases. Vines that sprout small, round melons and wild cucumbers are gathered for their water content. As the land transitions to verdant (oasis), grasses and trees (date palm, yucca, pepper trees, mesquite, cassia, olive trees, creosote, bur sage) transform the landscape and provide a little shelter from the sun and heat.
Non-Native & Cultivated
Once land has become arable, the Tehir can use seeds from other regions and cultures to grow small patches of bulgar wheat, millet, corn, legumes, squashes, and pumpkins to augment their food stores. The grains and corn can be ground down into meal or flour for breads and cakes, although most breads are flatbreads due to a lack of yeast. Beans can be dried for travel, and the same can be done to chunks or slices of squash, which can be reconstituted in stews.
The Sea of Fire was known for the Tehir tribes that inhabited it.