The Sorra Blanca
Stretching for miles and miles in the southern Esbalt Mountains is the huge flat expanse of the Sorra Blanca, a salt pan that is an inhospitable environment for all but the hardiest of creatures. Though it is apparently lifeless on the face of it, the salt pan is a vital lifeline for the Emirate of Taqwal, who have made much money from the trading of salt extracted from the Sorra Blanca to the rest of the continent.
The area that the Sorra Blanca sits in was once a glacier in the Esbalt Mountains that has long since melted away, and has left behind it a large flat plateau high above sea level. This area is still surrounded on all sides by the peaks of the southern Esbalt Mountains, which are much smaller than their brethren to the north that act as the border between the Emirate of Taqwal and the Sultanate of Fashaddon. These southern peaks separate the Sorra Blanca from the plains of the Vermell Peninsula below and have allowed it to take on its unique geography. When the heavily laden rain clouds that roll of the Safir Sea, whose waters are instrumental in the formation of the Vermell’s lush grassy plains meet the barrier of the southern Esbalts, they are just able to rise above the mountains into the area of the Sorra Blanca, but are then forced to dump most of their cargo of rain on the Plateau so that they can rise above the northern Esbalts and move high in the atmosphere above the Sonsuz Desert. As the prevailing winds from the south blow the clouds swiftly over the Sorra Blanca, it is regularly deluged in rain, followed by prolonged periods of intense, bright sunshine that evaporates the water before it is able to seep into the ground, leaving in its wake the enormous salt pan that makes up the Sorra Blanca. The area is dangerous to travel through unguided, as the surface of the salt pan is unstable, and often hides deep quagmires of mud that can easily engulf an unwary traveller. In addition the plateau itself is dry and waterless, with any rain water that falls and collects there being quickly contaminated by the thick crust of salt it falls upon. It is this salt, however, that give the Sorra Blanca a great amount of value to the Emirate of Taqwal, as it is incredibly good at preserving food stuffs and for use in cooking and industry. Gangs of workers labour throughout the year to collect the salt from the plateau so that it can be used in the Emirate and also shipped out far and wide to the rest of Turoza.
Fauna & Flora
At its heart, the Sorra Blanca is devoid of almost all life. The lack of water, food and shade means that a creature must be incredibly specialised or hardy to survive for long in the central Sorra Blanca, without bringing in their own supplies. Anecdotal evidence from those that have braved the interior has suggested that the central Sorra Blanca is home to a particularly specialised form of Elemental, Salt Elementals, who draw on the salt that surrounds them to sustain and stabilise themselves. As so few people have returned from the interior of the area, it is hard to corroborate their tales. The fringes of the Sorra Blanca are home to more life than the interior, especially in the areas where the slopes of the surrounding Esbalt Mountains meet the salt pan proper. In these border areas thick groves of straight hardy cactus grow, and provide sustenance and shelter to small birds and mammal, mostly rodents, that have accepted and acclimatised to the harsh nature of life in the Sorra Blanca. Since the Emirate of Taqwal began to make a concerted effort to collect the salt of the Sorra Blanca in large quantities for trade and production purposes it has been noted that the number of large predators that stray down into the area from the Esbalt Mountains has markedly increased. At first, this increase in activity baffled scholars, who could not see how the predators were able to sustain themselves given the lack of a large enough food supply. However, it has since been realised that the predators are being attracted by the gangs of workers sent to gather salt, who are particularly vulnerable when labouring on the Sorra Blanca and can be easily picked off….