Huh. Never occurred to me how I associate deserts with sand dunes until now.
The Great Desert of western Kaokut is the quintessential desert for the denizens of eastern Turan. Other deserts, such as the Arid Flat or Cracks-Skin, Eyes-Water Desert, meet the technical definition, but fail to match the solemn beauty of the shifting dunes. Multiple Kaokutian settlements reside at its edges, fostering trade, but also leveraging the unique properties of the Desert's sand for construction.
Scholars debate how the desert developed. Current meteorological knowledge suggests the area should be a dry plain, filled with similar vegetation to the Growing Plains to its north and east. However, oddities in the airflow, in addition to the Jankt Range, encapsulate the region in a perpetual state of drought. Mount Jankt may contribute to the climate by drying out any storms traversing from west to east, with any rainfall trickling down from the mountains into the Vintiz River. While the river establishes the western border of the desert, it provides little sustenance and is deeply set between small cliffs. Even if this explanation holds true, the northern and eastern edges (and some parts of the southern) should allow for the traversal of rains, infrequent as those patterns are. Unfortunately, an unknown mechanism either directs the flow of weather or otherwise forces clouds to dissipate before crossing into the desert. Presumably, the same phenomenon retains the sands within the area rather than eventually migrating outwards to greater Kaokut. Notably, the sand of the Great Desert possess a unique property not found in other sources. When combined with the natural clays of the surrounding areas, such as the Scorched Hills, and suffused with water, the mixture dries into a surprisingly sturdy stone. Koakutians, lacking a reliable source of wood, base their construction on this 'desert concrete' rather than other materials. Expensive or elaborate projects may also leverage the stratified rock from the Kantoth Badlands.
Great Desert by Wombo ("Sand Dunes Winds Orange")
Nearby SettlementsKaokutians do not live on the dunes themselves (though some artists wish they could). There are three towns located near the outskirts, where mixed sand and clay create a stable foundation for buildings:
- New Duranth: Settled in response to the expansion of the Aemark Kingdom in the early 700's, New Duranth is a key military asset in holding Aemark at the Giant's Slope. The vast majority of its populace are soldiers and associated support structure.
- Giz Moranth: Giz Moranth, famous for its 'Gizmos,' is a highly industrious city, featuring several engineering universities. Craftsmen from all over Kaokut visit and some stay to contribute to the contraptions sent to the warfront as a display of patriotism. It plays a critical role in shipping desert concrete to the rest of the Coalition as well.
- Old Duranth: Formerly 'Duranth,' the mining town excavates hundreds of tons of ore from the Red Mine, much of which is later processed by Giz Moranth or New Duranth for the war effort. The settlement has been razed multiple times over the centuries by Metac, the fire dragon residing in the Scorched Hills.
EcosystemFew plants or animals exist within the bounds of the desert, devoid as it is of water. On rare occasions, Kaokutians may spot a sand serpent, a 'winged' snake which coasts on the arid winds and subsists on ambient mana according to scholars. Otherwise, no life has been discovered in the central dunes. Areas surrounding the region vary in their species and climate, with the most vibrant located to the north and northeast, though Kaokutians established vast farming fields across these.
Western BorderThe Vintiz River defines the western edge of the desert and is host to a small ecosystem on its far banks. Mount Jankt's heat limits the moisture of the area and consequently most plants are hardy, small cacti or other water-efficient flora, such as shrubs. In other regions, these would be charitably described as weeds, but they provide critical nourishment to mice and hard-shelled insects. Small streams trickle from the Jankt Range, sustaining greenery in jagged lines along the mountainside. The largest animals living in the area are coyotes. They primarily hunt rabbits and rodents feasting on shrubbery. Unlike other canines, the Vintiz coyote rarely lives with a pack and instead hunts solo or with just one other. Scholars suspect the limited amount of game contributes to smaller group sizes and therefore a greater ratio of solitary predators.
Northern BorderKaokutians define the 'northern' border as everything from the Giant's Shelf to the edge of the Scorched Hills, which includes cardinal east. Directly north of the desert, the Growing Plains, which are not technically plains but rolling hills carved into tiers for farming, feature the majority of western Kaokut's food supply. Kaokutians subsist on a diet of vegetables and rice with the addition of poultry meat and eggs for protein. Some plantations specialize in rice and potato flours to bake breads, but these are considered luxuries by most Kaokutians. Prior to the late 700's and 800's, the eastern section between Jenganth and the Scorched Hills laid mostly untouched by humanoids. After the Aemark Kingdom conquered the former Nagranth (now Venprenta), Kaokut decreed farmers expand into the region to safeguard the western Coalition's food supplies due to the proximity of the warfront to the northern Growing Plains. Many species were displaced when new plantations were established, which results in a tense relationship between the local fauna and residents, who take a visceral pleasure to reducing the animals' numbers.
Southern BorderThe southern border is divided into two segments: one nearer the Vintiz River and the other the Scorched Hills. The segment nearest the Vintiz is dotted with military outposts to support Kaokut's defense against Aemark, in concert with the Al'Orphic Alliance. The sand and clay creates natural roads along the desert's edge, providing a wide and easily traversable path from Old Duranth (and greater Kaokut) to the warfront. Long lines of military equipment and swaths of camps occupy the space between the road and the river, turning into makeshift towns. By contrast, everyone avoids the Scorched Hills. Although Metac leaves his Rest perhaps twice per century, and hasn't for the past 70 years, the lingering fear of another rampage lies within the heart of any resident of Old Duranth or the eastern Growing Plains. The oppressive heat suffocates any living things, but the petrified remnants of lush forests remain nestled in the valleys. Despite the perils, Kaokutians brave the Red Mine for raw materials, careful to not overexert themselves and collapse from exhaustion. Traveling along the outside of the Hills is likewise simple due to natural roads, but merchants, soldiers, and migrants alike must bring substantial stores of water to pass through.
Cultural ImpactThe Great Desert is not named for its size, but for its beauty. Climate and weather aside, standing upon the dunes and feeling the constant breeze while gazing at the majesty of an endless, sandy sea is inspiring for artists. Kaokutian depictions are so commonplace and widespread, they established the expectation for a 'desert' in the minds of Al'Orphics, Rundics, and elves alike. Though Aemark is loathe to credit Kaokut with affecting their Kingdom, there is little doubt even famous painters drew inspiration from early Kaokutian masterpieces.
Kaokut Coalition - Location
Soundtrack by SK Kage (via AIVA.ai)
Kaokut Coalition - Location
Sandy Scenes, AeMThe premier source for all things great, we at Sandy Scenes provide the highest-quality art from the Kaokutian Great Desert. Not limited to just paintings, we offer a wide selection of desert concrete sculptures both pre-made or sculpted to taste. AeM? How did an Aemark company manage this? Smuggling most like, but impressive they've evaded the authorities.
Soundtrack by SK Kage (via AIVA.ai)