Mesa Dunes is a harsh and unforgiving place.
And yet, folk had learned to thrive.Since the ascension of The Rapacious, Mesa Dunes has become a horrifying home. His fiends roam the desert landscapes looking for their next prey. The Zuvmurt Kingdom sends regular raids to capture slaves and victims for the Daily Tournament Sacrifice.
And yet, folk find ways to survive.Though Zuvmurt Kingdom claims Mesa Dunes as their own. The true borders are highly contested. Many traveling folk have called the Dunes home for longer than the kingdom exists. Settlements hold onto their homes, whether by fighting, hiding, or negotiating. It is in the Mesa Dunes where the war is waged. Not in the comfortable splendor of the capitol Mvurjdi. And it is the people of Mesa Dunes who's souls are stolen by The Rapacious.
Even still, folk will be revived.
Locales and People of the Desert
Mmezvecho OutpostMmezvecho is the largest military outpost of the Zuvmurt Kingdom. Located in the center of the Mesa Dunes, near a small oasis, many soldiers live there full-time. Since the outpost is so heavily-guarded, many have sent for their families. Although higher class elves do not care for the rough desert life, many families prefer it to the settlements closer to the Mvurjdi capitol. Believing there are less restrictions for folk and less need to put on airs of wealth and prestige. Mmezvecho is subject to constant attacks by warring forces, as forces believe defeating Mmezvecho will cause Zuvmurt to lose its foothold in the Mesa Dunes. The largest victory was a three-month siege. However, the outpost has nearly impenetrable walls. A sudden water storm swept away the warring force and provided the Mmezvecho inhabitants with needed water.
Girmazi SettlementThe Girmazi Settlement is one of the oldest elven towns of Zuvmurt Kingdom. Lead by noble family Girmazi, the inhabitants practice blood magic. An ancient technique as powerful as it is dangerous. Those in the inner kingdom of Zuvmurt disdain the Girmazi people because they've mixed their bloodline with humans. However, the other noble families allow the settlement to consort with humans because of they control the blueprint of the Blood Bond Bracers as well as the glass desert flats. They believe during the Dread Scarlet Age, the body of a god fell from the sky and broke into a billion glass fragments. The glass shards have incredible healing properties. If a person cuts themselves on a glass fragment and let the blood soak into it, the shard will turn red. If they are injured, the person can draw the blood from the glass to heal. Girmazi inhabitants are known adventurers, who travel throughout the Eastern Homelands to peddle Zuvmurt wares. Many even venture into the Cursed Night Forest to seek rare magical artifacts and creatures.
Autonomous City of KuukatcicKuukatcic is the only city in the Mesa Dunes that has a signed treaty with the Zuvmurt Kingdom declaring it as autonomous. This is because the taxabi and other catfolk inhabitants are known assassins and mercenaries for hire. Kuukatcic is located in the north of Mesa Dunes within a large oasis. The Kuukatcic people care little about who wins the ongoing war, only that both sides continue to pay them to fight.
Talwit VillageTalwit Village is a small pacifist settlement of lizard folk and kobolds in the south of the Mesa Dunes who follow the Path of the Futile. Hidden in the sea of sand, Zuvmurt Kingdom have heard rumors of their existence, but are unable to locate them. Talwit inhabitants practice an ancient poetry-based magic and are known to speak each word with care.
VenaksanThe Venaksan are a traveling troupe of Kishi bards that use illusion magic and daring feats for their circus. Venaksan are collectors of strange creatures and enter towns riding on the back of giant scorpions. Venaksans wear their hair long, so as to hide the hyena head, which is said to be the tale of nightmares. The Venaksan have the ability to play music that harnesses the power of the djinn. Captivated by the Venaksan troupe ringmaster, a water genasi travels with them. Gushing geysers of water in the middle of the desert sands is a clear indication that the Venaksan have arrived.
DrizdiThe Drizdi are nomadic halflings who wander the Mesa Desert. Drizdi folk spend most of their days in underground sandstone dwellings, only venturing above ground during the night. Because they travel in small enclaves, they are considered an easy target for slave raids by the Zuvmurt Kingdom. Drizdi do not believe in personal possessions, draw the power from the environment, hold reverence for the Wind, and practice a cooperative style of magic.
KafattinKafattin is an old elven city destroyed by the Rapacious during the Devils' Storm. Second only to the capitol, Mvurjdi, Kafattin was once a resplendent hot springs respite for noble families with mud imbued with rejuvenating magic. The Kafattin noble family chose to fight against The Rapacious, the end result was their lives and the lives of all those in the city. However, even upon death, it is rumored that they still fight. Said to be cursed by the ghosts of dead souls, few dare cross their borders. However, below the dilapidated town is purported to be untold riches.
Lost Army of ZuvmurtTo the south of Mvurjdi is the remnants of Zuvmurt's final stand. King Turgesa II gathered forces numbering in the thousands and ordered them to march against The Rapacious fiend army. It believed that this is when The Rapacious annihilated the god, Zuvat. A sandstorm arose from the clear desert sky and buried the Zuvmurt army. None made it out alive. A simple sign marks the location, saying only: "Turn back from these cursed sands."
Fauna and Flora
SverdaSverda are a medium-sized nocturnal mammal that stands on two powerful hind legs. Sverda move by hopping and will burrow underground during the day to escape the summer sun. Although there are many wild Sverda in the Mesa Dune, the animal has largely been domesticated by the Drizdi halflings.
HaragweHaragwe are a large stub-nosed marsupial with a muscular body and long legs. Haragwe are one of the fastest animals in the Mesa Dunes. Stubborn and strong, they can be difficult to tame. The Drizdi halflings use Haragwes as steeds, for transporting goods, and pulling their Sand Sliders.
Ironwood TreeThe ironwood tree is a black acacia known for its tough wood and deep root network. Thought to have been cultivated by Girmazi inhabitants, ironwood trees have spread throughout the desert. It's need for little water and self-healing abilities make it the perfect specimen for the sparse desert environment.
Magnetic BerriesA sparse and thorny bush with bright orange berries hidden beneath its branches. Pricking ones finger on a thorn will cause a level of exhaustion and 1d8 of damage. After eating a berry from the bush, the consumer will automatically cast "charm person" on any folk encountered for the next hour. People will be unwittingly drawn to them. However, if one eats a second berry within 24 hours, all people will be repelled by them for the next hour.
Stone OlivesStone Olive trees resemble regular olive trees, save for their bark which is nearly impossible to pierce. If a person swallows the olive pit, they are immediately granted one hour of Stoneskin.
ReplenaDateReplenadates are grown on enchanted date trees. Originally developed by the Drizdi halflings, the secret to cultivating replenadates was stolen by the Zuvmurt nobles and exploited for profit. Eating a replenadate replaces a long rest. All benefits gained from a long rest are immediately available. However, for each day after the first of eating a replenadate, a person runs the risk of immediately dropping to 0 hit points and gaining a level of exhaustion. On day two if you roll a six, you suffer the ill effects. On day three, a 6 or a 5, continuing lower each day until on day seven any roll will guarantee the ill effects.
Desert AnkhegThe desert ankheg is a large, carnivorous monster that resembles a scarab. The desert ankheg lays in wait beneath the sand for unsuspecting victims before bursting forth to capture its prey in its mandibles. Though most of the danger of the desert ankheg comes from below, they have the ability to fly for short bursts of time. Ankheg spottings are rare, but it is believed that Drizdi built the first of their sand stone dwellings from old desert ankheg tunnels.
HowlersHowlers are the guard dogs and trackers of the Tiefling enforcers. They are often let loose to hunt runaway slaves or sent with a scouting military unit to uncover hidden settlements. The sound of their Howler and the promise of agonizing fear could be enough for any slave to second guess running away. If a settlement hears their terrorizing song, it is already too late to run away.
Blue Spotted LizardA small lizard native to the Mesa Dunes. Consuming this creature will cause severe dehydration and hallucinations.
Nice article. I like the many details of settlements, fauna and history.
Thank you! I love making different cultures so writing them here gives me an excuse to go back.
Adazuri: A shonen-inspired magitech fantasy world home-brewed for 5e.