Written for Prompt 5 (2019 Summer Camp)
The Sahul Dunelands are an extensive arid region to the south and south-west of Myconthren, taking up what many Imperial Scholars believe to be the entire western area of Sanaros, the southern continent. It is the largest known hot desert on Terralba, with badlands to the western coasts and savannahs in the north of Sahul. The Dunelands are, as such, divided into three sub-regions based on this geography.
The least arid of sub-regions in Sahul, Hakanuh is a thin but long stretch of sub-tropical savannah that divides the liveable and widely populated Myconthren with both the badlands and the desert. While capable of growing vegetation such as common shrubbery and a high tree density despite having an open canopy. While thin, this does not mean that the plains of Hakanuh and the blistering heat does not feel as though it stretches on forever. This heat makes it nigh impossible to traverse long distances on foot and riding one of the native humpback horses is the only option realistically available.
A huge portion of Surduh is dominated by various canyons, the largest of which is known as the Scar of Surduh. The Scar stretches from the far norh-east at the Hakanuh Savannah, to the ocean at the south-west, the furthest any Imperial Cartographer has documented. The Scar, while still fairly arid, has some vegetation that grows in the clay-rich red soils. The rest of Surduh is truly inhospitable and near impossible to traverse by foot, filled with mesas and hoodoos, dotted with burned shrubs. While the soil is barren, the mineral is rich, including the greatest deposits of shocksalt discovered.
Sahul, the largest subregion and namesake of the Dunelands, is a vast and mostly undocumented desert thought to take up most of the Sanaros continent. With Surduh to the west, Hakanuh to the north, and what is believed to be the jungles of Myphros and Sadaprax (The Golden King's homeland) to the east. The land is dry and barren, with the only life and vegetation clinging onto sparse oases and the great Sanarosi River that stretches and splits north from an unlocated source through Hakanuh, Myconthren and into the ocean. Dust storms and mesas scatter the landscape, breaking the horizon of endless sand dunes.
Fauna & Flora
There are not many forms of wildlife that can survive all of the subregions of the Dunelands, but those that have managed to survive and evolve are as dangerous to travellers as the sun above. Of course, there will be the most fauna in Hakanuh and around the Sanarosi River, then less so in the Scar of Surduh, and next to none can survive for long in the Surduh Badlands and Sahul Desert. Humpback horses, painted hounds, and various wild cats are the most common of these animals, but Southern Unicorns (very unlike their Northern cousin) that are hairless brutish animals with singular ivory horn at the end of their nose herd in the savannah. Giant scorpions and centipedes, Sand Trolls, Sphinxes, and even Manticores and Cockatrices have supposedly been sighted and recorded amongst other ferocious beasts.
While if sufficient shade can be acquired, the higher levels of vegetation and wildlife make Hakanuh the most hospitable of the Dunelands. However, the natives of this land - descended from the more civilised peoples of Myconthren - came south a long time ago and are now known as the Hakanut Hordes. The Hakanut are highly nomadic raiders that pester the other civilisation of Sahul and Myconthren atop both steppe horses and humpback horses. These animist raiding tribes are seen as the true threat of Hakanuh, more dangerous than the sun itself, and impossible to civilise. The northern nations would never have even thought to cross the savannah and risk being mercilessly cut down by the Hakanut if it weren't for the shocksalt and other minerals found in the Scar of Surduh, and refined in Sahul.
Also in the Sahul Dunelands, under the fear and servitude of the Hakanut Hordes, are the native Sahulian peoples who once roamed throughout the lands in tribes until the Hakanut were pushed into the region. The Sahulians were required of the Hakanut to serve them, and act as infantry during times of war being unworthy of riding horses.
All civilisation in Surduh is found in the Scar, with great tribes mining their homes into the rock itself, due to the inhospitable nature of the badlands in the region. These fetishist tribes fight amongst themselves for slaves and control over shocksalt mines. While extremely tribal, two permanent settlements have been established as main trade nodes to transport minerals, shocksalt and slaves to neighbouring nations. Thakhola to the north-east and Bagrem to the south-west are nearly always warred over by the different tribes as to hold one of these settlements is to be the richest and most powerful tribe in Surduh. Outside of the Scar will be extremely rare occurrences of small nomadic communities struggling to get by, and unfortunate merchants that thought they could risk the short cut.
The Sanarosi River and all of it's deltas are the only hubs of life and civilisation in the Sahul desert. The natives of this land are surprisingly advanced and civilised for the cultures in the Dunelands, stating that they have no cultural name and so are known by the northern nations as the Sahulmen. The Sahulmen congregate in an ancient theocratic kingdom that has changed through different names and dynasties, currently the Ancient Kingdom of Hakaserqet and the Hur Dynasty. The golden city of Trahur is supposedly a beauty to behold to any merchants or travellers, with countless sandstone pyramids holding various temples, lordly castles and most importantly, refineries. These refineries are said to be unmatched in productivity, digging up gold and refining shocksalt traded from Surduh tribes and developing into cannons and rifles further traded north into Myconthren.