THE RÁHAZ-DÁTH DESERT

INTRODUCTION - DESCRIPTION - LOCATION  - DIFFERENT PARTS - PEOPLE
CLIMATE -
FLORA -  FAUNA - RESOURCES - MYTH/LORE - HISTORY

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.

The Lighting Drake

View picture in full size 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. Return to the top

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. Return to the top


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. Return to the top

Enlarge map View entry on Santharia Enlarge Santharian map View details View details View details View details View details View details View details View details View details View details View details View details
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:

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. Return to the top

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:

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 destruction.

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. Return to the top

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. Return to the top

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. Return to the top

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.

Myth/Lore. A 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 whole Santharia.

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.

Time Table of the Ráhaz-Dáth

The Age of Awakening

1649 b.S. The Vardýnnian Atonement
„It is said that the Burning God, Foiros, finally heard the biddings of the human priests begging for the help of the gods to finish the torment of the dragons: At the end of the Caelereth year the burning orb of the sun descended below the world and returned not before one year had passed, so that a deadly coldness afflicted dragons and humans alike. Many dragons and humans failed to survive the so-called Vardýnnian Atonement in the Year of Darkness.“ - Ethelim Herengwar

The most dramatic event for the Ráhaz-Dáth indeed takes places in the year of the atonement in 1649 b.S. Though all Caelereth is affected, the changes to the desert landscape itself are considerable and last for several years till normality is restored. The darkness is particularly devastating to the fauna; it causes the death of the majority of the grazers. The darkness falls, the first irritation is that many animals fall into their night patterns of activity, whether sleep, hunting or grazing. This changes after a while as they become used to the dim light of the remaining stars. But food gets scarce, especially fresh food. No grass is left, and the leaves and barks of the trees don't last much longer. However, the tér'tér don't harvest a great portion of the dried grass as usual but go into hibernation, so a lot more is left for the grazers. But nevertheless thousands and thousands die from starvation and due to the strong cold. The predators have a feast for a while, and do well initially, because their prey stays fresh, frozen in the immense cold which sets in soon.

The landscape itself changes dramatically. It doesn't get much wetter first, though no evaporation of the water happens anymore, but the rains coming in the first months of the year fall mostly as snow and build up into a huge icecap on the central mountain stock of the Nirmenith mountains. It snows till in the valleys and the plain and hills of Uderza are covered deeply with a white layer as are the Aj'nuvic Grounds. As it gets colder and colder, the open water starts to freeze. The Salt Pans have been waterless by this time, but fill now with water from the swamp which freezes immediately, the Swamp Oka'Seri freezes entirely, allowing some animals to feed of the cy'pra, a reed like water plant. Not much later, the Nirmenith Oasis freezes over as well, despite its deep water, and leaves a huge ice cover while the water underneath still empties in the waterfall. Finally the waterfall itself freezes as a cascading white wonder, reflecting the faint light of the stars, worthy of poetry or painting had anyone been there and able to admire it. The Norong'Sorno offers some relief of the cold; full of an inner heat, the volcano warms up the region around him and provids the water dependent animals a open water source - the hot springs at its base.

The return of the sun and light seems most grazers dead, the landscape barren of any vegetation and a devasted ecosystem. Now the starvation of the predators sets in. With not many prey left to hunt and their frozen stock now decaying in the returned sun, their numbers fall as drastically as do those of the grazing animals before.
 
A change of the landscape sets in which exceeds even that of the frozen winter lands before. When snow and ice start to melt nature itself becomes violent. The ice shield of the Nirmenith Oasis cracks down and blocks the outlet of the water, causing it to rise to an unpreceeded level, overflowing and finally emerging in one great splash. Then the ice of the waterfall falls down and it is said that the noise is heard over thousands of furlangs. All the waters stored and frozen in the last year, and the additional precipitation in this year cause an immense flooding of half of the desert.

The Nirmenith river sends its waters for the first time in the known history into the Burning Sea, filling up the salt pans and then overflowing and meeting the sea. The floodplains are twice as expansive as normal, nearly reaching to Firefeet's Rest. The water level of the Seven Jewels rose till three joined into one. The river which passes now Mehmetsh fills its old riverbed instead of flowing underground filling up the Jewels. The plain of Uderza is flooded and Occen's Lake has no defined borders anymore. The water of the wells south of the Yar'Dangs doesn't vanish in the sands but forms little rivulets searching their way down to the cape.

Finally, when the water retreats slowly, everywhere life springs up. Seeds lying in the ground for decades become shoots and flower not only for a few weeks as usual, the trees get new leaves, the few animals left mate to fill up the green plains again. The climate changes to wetter conditions for a few years till it finally returns to the old patterns. The Shendar say that the desert is blessed and due to the extraordinarily good conditions the plains fill soon with new life again.

The Golden Age of Kings

1027 The Eruption of the Volcano Norong'Sorno
The Volcano Norong'Sorno
erupts massively, toring away the west slope of the Norong'Sorno and destroying one of the main Shendar trade routes along the western coast. Since then lava streams, variable in size and speed, run down the mountain, joining occasionally the sea there and creating huge clouds of water vapour. Ash clouds can still be seen at times, and a steady trickle of smoke from the Norong’Sorno’s gaping summit. Fortunately Thalambath on the other side of the volcano doesn't suffer too much from this event, though an associated earthquake causes some damage to the Black Castle and some of the houses in the surrounding region.

Information provided by Talia Sturmwind View Profile