Ashes of the Empire
The Ridian Sandsea
The Ridian Sandsea stands out as one of Morset’s strangest geographical features. From a distance it appears to be a vast flat desert , shreds of dust laden air resting here and there upon its surface. Drawing closer the sounds of surf crashing upon desolate rock can be heard and finally the startling discovery that the surface of the desert moves just as an ocean. Where water would be there is shifting sand, where cold sea spray should be…only choking dust, and beneath the abrasive waves not fish, but something else.
The sandsea is not entirely desolate however, the half-elves of Morset dwell along its shores and navigate its breadth. Finding no home or hearth among the other races due to their human heritage, the half-elves wandered as nomadic gypsy-like bands across Morset following The Fall. After nearly a century of tireless wandering and exile from society, the prophet Sighet Akshi had a vision of a new home for his people, the Ridian Sandsea. For over one thousand years the half-elves toiled on the desolate shores learning how to survive in their new homeland, learning to hunt the scala eel, how to plant khagat in the shallows, and forming a deep understanding with the ridian scarabs.
The combination of such a geographical oddity along with the strange culture of the half-elves makes the Ridian Sandsea one of the most alien regions of Morset, and nothing illustrates this as well as the greatest of half-elven cities, Kholai. High above the shifting dunes, above the dust and wind-whipped sand perches the mobile city of Kholai upon the immeasurably colossal carapace of the great Sand Mother, ancient insect queen of the scarab swarms. In this way Kholai moves from border to border of the sandsea in an endless and mutual patrol of the shared territory. Kholai is a city of great trade, moving goods and people back and forth between the half-elven settlements of the sandsea. It is for this reason that the Consortium always attempts to stay on good terms with the ridians, though the half-elves are distrustful of outsiders. What little is known of Kholai mostly comes from the tales of Consortium agents.
While Kholai may be the most legendary of ridian cities, the oldest and closest to the half-elven heart is the city of Sandhome. Sandhome is located on the western shore of the sandsea where the waters of the Boraeus River flow down from the southern Whitetooth Mountains to mingle with the shifting sand. It is the city with the greatest exposure to the syndicate society. Most of the strongest syndicates have some sort of presence here, though not enough to influence local laws or customs. It is a city of both great age and great youth, the oldest and most traditional of the half-elven cities, but also the most influenced by new ideas and ways. It is a city of contradictions, and a city of adventure.
Any outsiders wishing to visit any of the larger ridian cities must first be “anointed”. They must spread the oily beetle musk secreted by the Sand Mother generously upon their skin. The odor of the musk can be described as a sickly sweetness with a strong metallic scent, it is very pungent and cloying when one is unused to it and it has a way of lingering even after repeated vigorous washings.
The origin of the Ridian Sandsea goes back to the Wild Age and is cloaked in tales of legend and mystery. It is thought that the sandsea was not always as it is now. Most half-elves believe that before they settled upon its shores, before the rise and fall of the empire, and perhaps even before the rise of Errodrell’s might, the land was as any other. Where waves of sand endlessly lap today, there was once mountains, rivers, valleys and plains until something changed the land forever. What transformed the land is a subject of debate, some half elves believe it was the work of some forgotten dark sorcerer, others believe it was Errodrell himself, and still others believe many other things, perhaps an unstable portal to an elemental plane was opened, or it was the work of an ancient king, the ultimate defense for his realm.
Regardless of the origin, the result of its creation is widely agreed upon. From the newly created sandsea great forces of war marched forth and began to assail the surrounding lands. The arrival of the armies was sudden and strong and many lands and defenses fell before their might. The crumbling remains of various fortifications can still be seen arrayed around the borders of the sea, ancient markings of the furious onslaught. Perhaps the whole of Morset would have been overwhelmed and all turned to pitching sandy waves were it not for the coming of Ridia the Timeless, the greatest of all wizards ever known. His mind was unparalleled and his magic was irresistible. To the center of the sea he went, paying no heed to the endless armies in his path, until finally he reached the source of the evil transformation. As the armies of the assailed watched him go alone they despaired and feared he would be lost, but a day later the seas calmed, the dread armies faltered and were struck dumb and finally hewed down. The victorious armies celebrated their unexpected victory and arranged a great welcome for their savior Ridia, but he never journeyed back across the dusty waves.
When months later a brave ship finally ventured to the center of the sandsea they found a small island of solid land and upon it sat the weathered Ridia, engaged in a silent duel of minds and magic with an unseen evil. Unable to fully defeat the dark power, he could only contain it, and there he sits today on that same Island of Ridia, ever battling to protect Morset. A house has been erected there for his benefit by those who revere him, and it is known that the half-elves make a yearly pilgrimage to the island to see to his comfort and shelter. Many men of power and learning have sought his wisdom and knowledge throughout the centuries as he is the oldest person alive, thus his title “The Timeless”. Very little about him is known in concrete and indeed many of the details of his tale and life are known only because he shared them with those who visited him. Due to this fact, there are those who doubt his story, some saying he does not even truly exist, others that he is a fraud, or even that he is the one that created the sandsea in the first place and battles not to tame it, but to maintain it. Such views are in the minority, especially among the half-elves; many of who hold both Ridia and the Sand Mother in greater reverence than the gods themselves.