The Sea of Sand
There are few places more treacherous than pools of quicksand save for a sea of quicksand. Those who tread here quickly find that the lust for adventure or coin might leave them with a sinking feeling of despair.
Sitting at the base of the northeastern ridges of Estalon, lays the sea of sand. Over the centuries it has become an ecosystem teaming with life newly adapted for living in the tumultuous sands. Beatle shepherds tending their flocks, sifters searching for rare glass crystals, and Skiff boarders all make their homes and lively hoods here.
Following an ancient war, which claimed two thirds of the inner continent in a cataclysmic explosion, much of the remaining cities of the outer rim wrote off the area as desolate wastelands. As time would tell, this couldn't be further from the truth. A sprawling desert expanse lay before adventures teaming with new alien life and no place seemed more interesting than the sea of sand that lay where one of the largest inland bodies of water once stood. Underneath a hundred ft. of sand lays the ancient bed of the sea that once stood here. The bed still intact, water disperses through to create a thick slurry of sand. In dryer times the sand can solidify to a degree and is even walkable by normal folk though still quite dangerous. In wetter months and freak storming the sand can wave and buckle as thick dirty water, nearly a death sentence for those who fall into it.
Movement on the sea is similar to that on most bogs and swamps. Shallow boats and skiffs are preferable to heavy ships which move at pathetic speeds, in comparison.
Skiffs: Most of these 'skiffs,' as they are called range in sizes requiring only one person to a three man team to operate. These resemble pontoon boats with additional runners on the sides for stability. Most are wind powered utilizing massive sails to catch winds from down the mountains for propulsion. These skiffs are most common among those Scrab farming and Glass sifting.
Skiffboards: 'Skiffboards,' so called for their extremely reduced size and one man operation are among a growing type of transportation, suited more to the thrill seeker. Upon a flattened or gently curved board made of chitin, or more expensively wood, is attached to a single control sail and a single strong rudder mounted to the back end, controlled by the riders back foot. These parts are all the main aspects of these vehicles, save for some tribal markings denoting a number of exploits recognizable by other riders. Light and fast they are rarely used by bandits and raiders as their unwieldy nature and high risk for falling are too big a risk for most, during combat.
Dune beetles: A small nomadic sect of druids inhabiting the seas has domesticated a rather large variety of flightless beetle, so much so, they can ride them as mounts. The practice has been attempted by many, but the impulsive and timid nature of the insects is hard to predict and the creatures can be quite ferocious if they feel cornered.
Residents of the Unforgiving Terrain:
Scrab Farmers: Notably one of the larger groups living in the sea of sand for extended periods of time is the farmers. There is little room for agriculture, but many herd a certain type of flightless beetle, known commonly as 'Scrabs.' They appear as the shape and size of a large scarab, but have the pincers and reddish color of a typical sea crab. The farmers herd these creatures by acting as their alpha, the clicking taps of their flock and can mimic these sounds themselves to move the flock and give it orders, with a fair amount of specificity. Some have even built large dummy replicas of the species alpha to assist the faÃ§ade with a physical presence.
Glass Sifters: Also in the sea of sand are the Glass Sifters, they reside on larger wider pontoon boats and slowly move across the sea with long comb-like prongs sifting the sands for Lightning glass. The glass created by the particularly potent lightning in the area has been discovered to have unique properties, for conducting and directing electricity. The worked glass can absorb and store ambient static energy. As of now, however it is a mere novelty of the sciences, but it is still worth quite a bit to artists and alchemists alike as a base materials for their works.
Golden Scrab Hunters: One of the more daring occupations is Golden Scrab hunting. Unlike their relatives the Common Ccrabs, they are massive in size, carry a golden hue, and supremely violent. The chitin, meat, and tendons of a Giant Golden Scrab can fulfill the needs of ten men's wages for a year. Hunting the creatures is supremely dangerous, massive assaults with at least ten skiffs and nearly 30 men are needed to kill and collect one caucus. However, aside for the inherent danger of attacking the creatures, the druids who inhabit the region revere them as sacred. Attacking a Golden Scrab under the watch of these druids can be just as bad as a lost kill. Battles between the hunters and druids are far from uncommon.
'The Druids:' The Druids, as they are commonly called, call themselves the 'Sandborn,' loosely translated. From birth they are taught to walk on the sand freely, they are calm and collected by nature as anger and frustration make balancing on the sand difficult. As such, it is a common practice when Sandborn debate to stand atop the sand and onlookers will watch believing that lies and fluctuations of the spirit will cause one to sink slightly or completely, in the most severe cases. The Sandborn are easily recognized by their linen clothing spun from silk and their knack for riding Dune beetles; creatures solely domesticated by the Sandborn. Dune Beetles are quite fast, outrunning most skiffs effortlessly. In battle most Sandborn have a hard time standing so most fight mounted on a Dune beetle, making devastating ride by attacks. As previously mentioned, the Giant Golden Scrabs are sacred Sandborn only kill them on rare occasion for food and materials, and when they do so they utilize everything possible. The wasteful nature of the hunters, only taking the most prized cuts and pieces, is cause for much strife.
Skiffboarders: A relatively new group rising in popularity is the Skiffboarders. No one is sure who created the first skiffboard or how they got to popular, but there here and by most accounts are nuisances. Young people from all walks of life, Sifter, Farmer, and Sandborn have taken to the new vehicle with enthusiasm. The main pull, anyone can figure, is that the skiffboards under optimal weather can reach blinding speeds, aerial maneuvers and such are considered 'Scorchin',' by most children. At this point there are a few that haven't seen a troupe flit by bounding into the sky effortlessly. Being a mash of youth from all walks they each quickly learn from each other, Farmers intuition to find and lure food, the glass sifters Knack for working Lightning glass, and the druid's ability to walk on sand. Over time, many members begin to control the weather in small ways, namely calling winds for their sails, and are able to predict weather phenomena naturally. All these skills have melded into a new druidic sect of sorts, free to all. Where strict codes and rules are staples in druidic culture, this one rarely focuses on rules and boundaries, rather good will, protecting the sea, and their freedom.
The Center Storm: Constantly, near the center of the sea, there is a raging sand storm. Few go in and fewer have left it. Some believe it hides something, others believe it a natural phenomenon caused by some unknown energy spring beneath the sands, and others still hold it with religious significance, as a sign of their deities undying wrath.
The Raft: Floating around the sea slowly is the only true Sea of Sand settlement, The Raft. The raft is converted hull of the only ship to be built in hopes of taming the Sea of Sand. Its massive size and laughably slow pace make it a failure of nautical engineering, save for the fact it floats stably in the sand and has weathered countless storms. As such is has become an Inn and trading post; as opposed to the fortress of a concurring war machine as it was once envisioned. All are welcome at its gates, but the proprietors don't have much tolerance for rabble rousing.
The Docks: On the desert end of the sea of sand stands massive docks with a small city surrounding it. Here goods like wood, cotton, leather, and salt are bought to trade for desert items. Farmers and Glass Sifters periodically make their way here to sell their wares. Additionally, Hunters reside here for much of the year, living on the spoils of a few catches, selling chitin, tendons, and meat to vendors as well.
- You have been hired to investigate the Center Storm. How will you get there? How might you survive the tumult inside? Is it even worth it? There could be a huge hidden city in the center with riches galore; you're going to pass that up?
- Rising tensions between the Hunters and Druids is coming to a head can you slow the impending war.
- Passing around the edge of the sea of sand a Giant Golden Scrab Beaches itself, as you look out you see hundreds of animals, large and small beached. What's causing this? I wonder if that new Glass manufacturing plant has anything to do with this?
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? Responses (7)-7
I think this is excellent! Great job!
The idea is clear, reasonable and well written.
This sub is 'Scorchin' '!
Something about boating over a sea of quicksand on a shallow skiff is really cool to me.
Though I'm not entirely sure that quicksand works that way, I'm willing to let it slide because of the mental image you have created. The various additional details to this just tops off the sub.
A very entertaining submission. 5/5
I enjoyed this sub immensely. There's so much more to each of the factions, namely the Sandborn and Skiffboarders, but that's for another time.
Very clever and creative, a great submission.