The Sands of Sturn
Desert of the Dahlen
"Many outsiders refer to the desert as a 'cruel mistress', though they could not be more wrong. What Sturn chose as our home gives us a myriad of beauty and resources that can not be found elsewhere in this world. The severe heat and cold provide us safety while warding off our adversaries. The waters, though scarce as they are, bless us with plentiful sustenance for our cities. Every year we discover something new and wondrous in the Sands themselves. Our father has truly blessed us with the perfect home for our people." - Dahmra Menes, High Priestess of BakisonWhile Nioyaathep contains the full geographical extent of the country, the Dahlen refer to the desert itself as the Sands of Sturn after their creator. The Sands stretch to each corner of the country to make up the largest desert in all of Nora. Sand seas and rocky plateaus cover the vast majority of the desert. Due to the hyperarid climate, the land is seldom marked by vegetation and has a disturbing lack of landmarks outside of the rivers and mountain ranges. Despite being primarily comprised of sand and stone, there are a few large rivers that pierce the desert. Most converge into one of two great lakes, Oiyasi to the north and Lake Menes to the south. Almost all of Nioyaathep's cities can be found along these waterways as the only reliable source of water and farmable terrain. Skirting around these rivers is also where the vast majority of the flora can be found, namely palms, brushes, and cacti. A few mountain ranges rise up from the center of the desert creating safety from the harsh sandstorms and hot sun. Several cities in Nioyaathep butt up against these mountains not only for the safety from the climate, but as an additional layer of protection from outsiders as well. Rich with sandstone and vital ores, these mountains have been the main provider of building materials for the Dahlen cities. Rain is seldom found throughout the desert and heavily praised when it is. More common than actual rain or thunder are the harsh sandstorms that plague the landscape. The sandy terrain gets whipped into such visceral speeds that it can actually strip the flesh off of those who encounter it. Many of the local fauna have adapted to avoid or resist said storms, and the cities throughout the desert have been built to counter it's effects. At night, the temperature comes close to freezing throughout the desert, often passing the threshold in the more central areas. Those who prepare solely for the heat often find themselves lacking the gear to protect themselves from the frigid nighttime air and succumb to the sudden drop in temperature. The rapid shifts in climate along with the unending dunes are rumored to cause a sense of delirium, those lost within the desert claiming to see and hear spirits rise from the sands calling out to them. The Dahlen have embellished these claims and declare that those unwelcomed by the desert are surely to be swallowed by it, body and soul.
Dahlia's TearsWhat many refer to as the greatest natural phenomena of the desert would be the traveling oases known as Dahlia's Tears. The Tears seem to spring up in various locations across the desert seemingly from nowhere, without the need for rainfall or a connection to one of Nioyaathep's rivers. They are named in myth for the belief that they are the actual tears of Dahlia welling up to the surface of the desert. The great nomads of the desert, the Shasreel, are led by their shamans, the Shasdjed, to find follow these pools to sustain their traveling lifestyle.
A Gateway to DeathAs all know that Sturn was banished to rule over the Realm of the Dead, so has the tale been passed that he entered the realm by descending deep beneath the desert sands. Dahlia is said to rule over the 'gateway' to the afterlife -- many believe this to be metaphorical to suggest she shepherds souls into her father's realms, though the Dahlen believe there is a physical gateway where one can enter. The priesthood claims this gate is under Bakison, with the High Priestess of the city being the only one who has access to it. Others believe that the gate is hidden out in the desert wastes and that only a Shasdjed could locate it.