It's easy to believe that no civilisation thrives in the burning sands of the hostile Karikun desert - it is a place of debilitating heat, voracious predators and deep mystery. Nevertheless, if one knows the dunes well, they will know that one such society thrives in the waste - the Ouzquin Dremorix live out their lives here in reverence of their god of storms, mirrors and glass; Axtrami.
Incredibly, the Ouzquin Dremorix have many communities throughout the desert, from the scattered agriculture driven outposts towards the edge of the desert, to the haunted and feared ruins of the coastal Axtramiya Zuno. However, no city within the desert is as large and awe-inspiring as the home and birthplace of the Ouzquin Dremorix; Bareka.
Bareka stands some forty miles inland, east of the jagged coast of the Ghaleo sea. Built on a large slate of bedrock against a massive cliff face, Bareka has three significant areas; Upper Bareka, Lower Bareka, and Seva Noxen.
The first thing a traveller would see of Bareka when breaching the sand dunes is the sun glinting off a massive, curved spire of mirrored glass sitting atop a sandstone building. This building is the high temple of Axtrami and sits atop a plateau along with a plethora of other similarly spired buildings which make up Upper Bareka. The glass spires create a 'tooth-like' effect along the ridge of the plateau. As the traveller nears the shining city, the full expanse of Bareka is revealed - at the base of the cliff lies a full metropolis.
Lower Bareka is a bustling city divided into four sections. To the north, smoke rises from glass-smiths and blacksmiths; tanners and woodworkers set up shop - the craftsman district has a distinct feel of industry. To the west, along the cliff face bookshops and alchemists make their home. Built into the rock itself is a large Enclave of sorcerous arts - where those who show talent may go to study mystical arts of magic. This is the Academic district. The majority of the Ouzquin Dremorix locals take residence to the south, however. The residential district is a place to find general stores, food and drink and taverns to spend the night, or taste of the local spirits. Connecting all of these areas towards the southeast is a large ring-road, which circles about a massive Arena. This ring road is the military district, and contains the war academy, as well as stores which deal in weapons and armour commissioned from the smiths in the craftsman's district. A stables lies near the road into Bareka here, breeding specialty horses hardy enough to traverse the searing desert.
At a first glance, one would think that the Upper and Lower Bareka were the entirety of this massive city, but there is a third, equally large portion to this place. 'Seva Noxen', the 'Stairs through Midnight', is a unique cave system which consists of a major, arterial tunnel which inclines up from the Academic district to Upper Bareka. A plethora of veinous tunnels also branch off from this, creating many nooks and crannies in which people have taken up life. Seva Noxen's main tunnel is well patrolled and safe for travel, but the smaller tunnels are considered lawless zones and make up the 'slums' of Bareka.
Made up of the middle class of the city, Lower Bareka contains Craftsmen, soldiers and aspiring academics; the working class. It is a place of trade and craft. Lower Bareka is a bustling place, where the majority of the Ouzquin Dremorix live, work and socialize. A road into Bareka is along a carved cliffside road to the south of Lower Bareka. It is the only way into the city short of scaling the cliffs or braving the Deep Tunnels of Seva Noxen. The road leads directly onto the Ring Road of the Military district and is patrolled by several guards. Entering Bareka via this road takes you directly into the heart of the defence of the city. This, combined with the fact that the road itself limits the amount of people who can travel on it at once makes the city itself nearly impossible to invade through brute force.
Lower Bareka - Craftsman's District
The defining characteristic of the Ouzquin Dremorix is their devotion and reverence of glass. Glass is a holy object to the desert folk; it is believed that the secrets of creating glass was gifted to them by their god, Axtrami, when he sent a massive bolt of lightning to the earth, searing and melting the sands into the clear substance. As such there are few, if any, who can match the skill of a master Quinnish Glass-smith. Many Glass-Smiths and Blowers line the streets of the Craftsman's District. They create all manner of glass items; teeth for Ouzalas - toothed spears; Hemisa's, a significant Quinnish holy object; decorative glass objects, window panes and any other glass object you could imagine. Blacksmiths also make their homes in the Craftsman's district, making armour, nails, tools and the like. They also make swords and other weapons, but they are not usually favoured by the Ouzquin Dremorix, who always prefer their own Ouzalas, and bows. Most armour and weapons made here are sent to the Military District for Sale.
Wood is a relatively rare commodity in the midst of the desert, and fetches a fair price. There are some native trees called Kilmbarc which offer a strong, dark wood ideal for use in bows and Ouzalas, but they are not plentiful. Due to the rarity of wood, the Woodcrafters in this district tend to almost exclusively create the previously mentioned weapons with the wood they get. Non-weapon wooden objects in a household are indicative of great wealth and status, and items made in this material are always highly polished and very ornate. All buildings in Bareka are made out of a combination of glass and sandstone.
Tanners and Leatherworkers are also common in the Craftsman's District, making use of the rough hides of the dangerous desert wildlife - often bought from the hunters of the Hunters Hall - to create clothing and coverings. Leather is used predominantly for day to day clothing in the desert, with the rarer wool and linen mainly being reserved for smallclothes and bedding.
Lower Bareka - Academic District
The Ouzquin Dremorix is often thought of as a barbaric peoples by those not from the desert. This is why outsiders are often surprised to see an entire section of their main city devoted to learning and arts. Dozens of bookstores and a well-stocked library can be found in the Academic District of Bareka. Their shelves are filled with works from across the world, often obtained at great expense. Alchemists and herbalists also make a living in the District of Academia, using their chemical knowledge originally learned for the glass-making process upon various local and imported herbs to create salves and tinctures for many dozens of uses. A large cave entrance to 'Seva Noxen' lies within this district.
Built into the rock wall at the base of the great cliff face is the Enclave of Sorcery. Some of the Quinnish folk find themselves with a natural talent for sorcerous arts, or have a desire to learn of the mystical nature of the world. This is where those people inevitably come. Here, they will find a massive community of similarly talented people to learn from and experiment with. Many innovations have been made in the walls of the Enclave - as have some disasters!
Far west in the Academic District are four well-guarded buildings of sandstone crafted against the rock wall. These buildings contain great bores which have tunnelled deep within the rock to access a massive underground river - this is the Ouzquin Dremorix's main source of water. The public is not allowed access to these bores and they are guarded heavily, as contamination or nefarious acts of sabotage are a significant threat to Bareka. The reason there are four separate bores are for this very reason; if one has become contaminated, there are still three others working to provide the Ouzquin Dremorix with life-giving water. The underground river can be accessed through Seva Noxen, however getting there is extremely hazardous due to the cave-life deep below.
Lower Bareka - Military District
The great ring road that is the Military District is the central hub of Bareka, in that the best way to get from one region of Bareka to the other is by crossing this road. This is why many merchants set up temporary stalls along the sides of this road. Travelling merchants may also hire a spot along this road to sell their wares. Many of the buildings along here sell armour and weapons. A discount is given to those within the war academy for these items.
The main road and entrance to Bareka comes directly onto this road from a carved ramp along the secondary cliff face. This way, all travellers are immediately faced with the might of Bareka's military force. On this road, adjacent to the road in and out of Bareka is the only place one may purchase mounts for desert travels. A massive stables stands here, run by Kaledo Molux and his three boys. Kaledo sells camels and horses for travellers and locals, and for those willing to hand out generous coin, Kadelo has a specially bred horse, legendary for their stamina, strength and sure-footedness throughout arid environments.
The War Academy of Bareka and the Arena are the same establishment; a massive, circular arena of sandstone and glass spears. Most of the year the worn grounds of this arena serve as a combat training facility, where soldiers for the Ouzquin Dremorix perform drills and practice weapon techniques and defensive tactics. Three times a year, however, Bareka is abuzz with activity as the Arena hosts a three day event; the great games bring seasoned fighters from the desert and beyond to fight amongst each other, as well as exotic beasts never before seen in Karikun. Those who survive are hailed as great warriors and are given a percentage of the profits made by the arena.
Lower Bareka - Residential
The residential district of Lower Bareka is situated to the south of the city and holds the homes of the majority of the city, but also is the place to go for most general, day to day goods. There are plenty of general stores, and places to purchase food and drink. Taverns and inns offer places to stay, and a selection of hot meals and alcoholic beverages including a famous, potent cider made from sour wild pears.
The Hunter's Hall lies within the Residential District. This is a place where proven hunters come to pass the time and socialize with one another. Non-members are not allowed into the hall, and to gain membership one must pass a trial set by the Hall members themselves - usually involving retrieving the pelt of an elusive or dangerous creature.
Seva Noxen - The Barekan Cave System
Along the cliff wall is a large natural cave entrance which leads deep into the rock. Within the rock is a unique system of splitting, veinous caverns, nooks and crannies. The main, arterial cave is known as 'Seva Noxen' or the 'Stairs through Midnight'. This massive cave, several dozen feet in width and height, has a steady incline and has been carved out by the Ouzquin Dremorix into a mixture of smooth ramping and stairs. This massive subterranean road exits at the top of the cliff face and is the only easy way to access Upper Bareka.
While the main cave is a safe, well patrolled area, the many off-shooting 'veinous' caverns which lead both up and down throughout the rock are considered a lawless zone and the 'Slums' of Bareka. It is here that most shady-doings happen. This is the place to go to find people and items of ill-repute.
Seva Noxen - Stairs through Midnight.
The main part of Seva Noxen is a massive tunnel of the same name. The Stairs through midnight steadily inclines for several miles in a twisting pattern until it spills out into Upper Bareka. This road is well lit, patrolled and safe to traverse day and night, but there are many smaller caverns which split off from Seva Noxen, and to leave the main road is to leave the law of Bareka. Many of the less fortunate of Bareka make homes in here, scraping out a meagre living. This is also a popular place for those who have broken their 'Ouzquin Hemisas' - the glass orb worn on a circlet around the Ouzquin Dremorix's head, which symbolises their life. Those who break their Hemisa's are exiled from Bareka, and some flee to the tunnels to avoid this fate.
Many things can be found and bought within Seva Noxen's smaller caverns if one is willing to look; Illicit drugs, prostitution, thugs for hire and assassins to name a few. The caverns are dangerous though, and crime is high.
Seva Noxen - Mushroom Farm.
Towards the base of Seva Noxen is one reputable business. Ottivas Rolt grows a delicious cave mushroom in one of the lower caverns, capitalising on damp conditions and low light to coax a plethora of the fungi to grow. The mushroom, known as Noxenrut, is considered a delicacy outside of Bareka and is exported widely. In a land where not much can grow, Noxenrut is the staple vegetable for the Ouzquin Dremorix, and is almost always used in their meals in one way or another.
Seva Noxen - The Deep.
About three hundred meters into Seva Noxen, one will notice a large split in the cave wall with a dozen Ouzquin Dremorix warriors standing guard. This is the entrance to 'The Deep'. The Deep is a place where no Ouzquin Dremorix lives, or cares to explore. The tunnel leads into a cave system, the size of which is unknown - it is speculated that it may even lead to other exits deep in the desert. What is known, however, that beyond this point is an entire ecosystem of dangerous creatures which the Ouzquin Dremorix have been unable to clear. Beasts such as Hairy, bear-like creatures, gelatinous oozes, blood-feasting giant insectoids and formless, ethereal horrors have been sighted. Travelling in The Deep is something which should not be done alone, as there are things down there which can rend flesh, crack bones and even destroy one's mind. The entrance to The Deep would be blocked off if it were not for the fact that it is the only way to reach the underground river which feeds Bareka. The river is inspected once a year by scholars from the Enclave. A trio of them are escorted by a dozen guards through the caverns, and it is rare that all of the party come back alive.
To enter The Deep is something which must be done only if it is absolutely necessary. It is also rumoured that on top of all the unnamed cave-horrors down below, there is something more sinister; something ancient and vastly intelligent, biding its time and waiting to show itself to the world.
Seva Noxen - Deep Lake
In The Deep lies the main lake which feeds the city of Bareka. Four bores have been laid on the surface, reaching into this river, but access to the river itself is necessary to make sure that nothing is befouling it, and to maintain these bores from underneath. The river is enormous, and must go for miles underneath the sands. Cave fish and larger amphibious creatures live within this river, and provide a food source for the lesser creatures within The Deep.
Upper Bareka is a plateau atop a steep cliff, where all those of wealth and status reside within Bareka. Up here lies the Temple of Axtrami - a place of worship for the Ouzquin Dremorix. Massive glass and mirrored spires reach for the heavens atop the structures up here, giving the area a jagged, toothlike appearance. When travelling to Bareka, these spires are the first thing that is seen, shining brightly in the sun.
Upper Bareka - Temple of Axtrami
A beacon to all Ouzquin Dremorix, the massive tooth-like glass spine which rises from the top of the temple of Axtrami can be seen shining from miles away when the sun catches it. The only more impressive structure in the desert is the ruined and accursed Axtramiya Zuno, which lies on the coast of Ghaleo to the west. The Temple of Axtrami is where all the priests and clerics of Bareka congregate to pay their respects to the god of storms and glass. All are welcome in the temple to seek guidance and advice. Within this temple rest three Ouzala artefactsof great power and reverence; said to be touched by Axtrami himself: Tarax, which grants the wielder the ability to travel without ever tiring. Loen, which grants vision to any blind who hold it, night vision and the ability to spot deception. Hembali, which gives the wielder the ability to cure any wound short of death, provided they are within a place of worship to any god.
The high cleric of Axtrami has been known to 'loan' these weapons out temporarily to people, should their need be great enough and they be trusted enough by the temple.
*Arena - The city is buzzing! The party has just entered Bareka and the games are set to start at the Arena this weekend! Anyone who wishes to take part in the games may apply, and the reward is great!
*Military - The stamina and ferociousness of the Ouzquin Dremorix army is legendary. The price to join the military is high, but the reward could be great. Will you join, for the chance of gold and glory?
*Balix the glass blower - Balix is an up and coming Glass-Smith in the Craftsman district. He has heard of a certain plant in the swamps of Jul'tar, far from the Karikun desert, which would lower the melting point of the sand significantly and revolutionize glass making. If you find yourself in the swamps, keep an eye out for that plant for him; bring back a sample and he will reward you well!
*Problems in the Arcanery - The Enclave of Sorcery is in lock-down! While trying to use magic to create a glass servant, something went awry, and now the see-through golem attacks everything it sees. They need some brave souls to enter the Arcanery and find and destroy it! But beware the secrets of the Enclave; there are more dangers than just the golem in there! (See-through assassin)
*Water Bores Defense - The guards have been tipped off that some enemies of Bareka want to sabotage the bores. You have been hired as extra guard to defend them. But the saboteurs have the use of magic and stealth - it will be no easy task! The loss of one or two bores will be salvageable, but the PC's must not let all of them fall!
*Water Bores Poison - The other side of the previous plotling: You have been hired by some nefarious folk to sabotage the water bores of Bareka. They are heavily guarded so doing this will not be an easy task.
*Hunter's Hall, Initiation - The PC's want to join the Hunter's Hall, and the initiation is to hunt down a Jakthra and bring its pelt back. Doing this will give the party membership. But Jakthra are no easy thing to find and they are tough... not to mention they never hunt alone.
*Hunter's Hall, adept - One evening in the Hunter's Hall, one of the hunters issued to you a challenge; Lurking along the shores of the underground river in The Deep is a massive cave-bear. To slay this beast would be impressive, and will give the PC's a place of honour in the Hunter's Hall.
*Escape through The Deep - The PC's have rubbed the Ouzquin Dremorix the wrong way. Perhaps they were spotted after the water poisoning plotling from earlier. Escape through the city itself is a death wish, but there may be another way out; going through Seva Noxen and entering The Deep, the PC's must navigate the treacherous tunnels down below, and find a way out into the desert.
*Rat trouble - Ottivas Rolt has some trouble with his mushroom farm; something has been eating large quantities of the mushrooms and he wants the PC's to find out what. Investigating the cave, the PC's will find that a new, small tunnel has opened up at the back; a vicious, verminous rat-like creature has squeezed through here from The Deep and has been pilfering the fungi; but flesh is a tastier treat!
*Investigate the Lake - It is the time of the year to investigate the underground lake! The PC's have been asked to accompany the scholars, along with a few extra guards, down there.
*Proving your worth - The PC's have been tasked with retrieving one of the legendary Axtrami Haiq Ouzala from the Temple of Bareka, but before the high cleric is willing to loan one of their artefacts to them, they must prove their worth by slaying those who have sinned against Axtrami - a band of Obsidian Revenants within an abandoned temple, some miles to the south of Bareka.