Barren Wastes: The “Wastes” is a tract of desolate rock covering most of the southern shore of the Icy Sea, going inland for over 100 miles in the central portion. Tradition says that this area was laid waste in some magical calamity many centuries before the Invoked Devastation. Only moss and lichen grow here, with sparse grasses and stunted trees in sheltered locations. Cold winds blow incessantly across this dreary landscape.
A notable feature here are the Burning Cliffs, a huge region of broken slate covered with unquenchable fires and dense smoke. Some believe the area is fused to the Elemental Plane of Fire, as creatures native to that plane are known to dwell hereabouts. Farther east, remnants of the Rovers of the Barrens are encamped at Dogwind Bay.
Black Ice, Land of: At the far edge of the Flanaess is a seemingly endless landscape of blue-black ice, filling the northern horizon beyond the Burneal Forest and Blackmoor. The source of theses rolling fields of ebony ice has never been explained. On the Dramidj coast dwell the Baklunish Guryik folk; on the Icy Sea side are the Zeai, related to the Ice Barbarians.
Strange arctic monsters prowl this place, and the few humans living here fear to enter it without strong magical protection. These barbarians speak of evil spirits, black-hide trolls, and horrid wights in this realm. Only the blue bugbears that make their home in the dark lands seem to avoid the life-hating creatures that flourish here.
Just outside the Land of Black Ice, where it borders Blackmoor, legends place the infamous City of the Gods. Buildings of iron are said to tower there in a land of artificial balm and warmth, while the cold of winter prevails everywhere else. Other legends tell of a land farther north, on the far side of the Black Ice, where jungles abound and a hazy sun burns unmoving in the sky. Several expeditions were mounted to explore this realm, but no proof of the tales’ reality has ever been brought back to civilization.
Bright Desert: The origins of this wasteland are unknown, though it is thought a kingdom once lay here when the land was fertile, being utterly destroyed in some age-old disaster. Only nomad tribes wander the land now, at war with each other and other tribes in the Abbor-Alz. In the west is a neutral trade village and oasis, UlBakak, but travel here is fraught with danger. The pass to Hardby is controlled by the Tareg, an inbred clan of Suel who reached the desert centuries ago but could not escape it. Of late, the desert has become the home of the archmage Rary of Ket, and the desert’s Brass Hills are the center of his “Empire of the Bright Lands.”
Dry Steppes: West of the Crystalmist Mountains and the Ulsprue is an endless prairie called the Dry Steppes. The area was once fertile and blessed with abundant water, a veritable garden for the ancient Baklunish padishahs and sultans. The Invoked Devastation ruined the beauty of this land at the end of the Suel-Baklunish War one thousand years ago, and destroyed the empire that existed here. The nature of the steppe changes toward the central region, becoming more pleasant and rich. Large hordes of nomads, herd animals, and centaurs roam the area, migrating north in summer and returning south with the rains of winter. Little rain falls here, and rivers and lakes are few.
Details on the nomads are presented in the section on the Plains of the Paynims. Many nomadic Baklunish clans in the Dry Steppes are dervishes, devotees of mystical religious practices who defend their lands and beliefs by strength of arms. Their most powerful leader is called the Mahdi of the Steppes, a prophet and warrior. Dervishes in this region celebrate his divine insight, and others are well advised to do likewise if they wish to have the goodwill of these fanatics. Many nomads meet at the Stone Circles of Tovag Baragu (see Udrukankar, Lake)
Rift Canyon: This strange valley is more than 180 miles long and up to thirty miles wide, but was not formed by river action. A rocky wasteland surrounds the Rift, adding to its unnatural character. Rainwater drains into caverns throughout its expanse. Long explored by the lawless folk of Riftcrag, the Rift still shelters many menaces within it. Thousands of evil Reyhu bandits fled to the Rift following Iuz’s invasion in 583; these angry men worship Erythnul, and they have no qualms about sacrificing intruders. Rift bandits often venture out to gain food and weapons; try as they might, Iuz’s commanders cannot block all canyon exits. The west end of the canyon has dreadful monsters that seem to issue forth from the caverns. Southwest of Rift Canyon is White Plume Mountain, a lone volcano of awful reputation; north are the Tangles, where other anti-Iuzite bandits hold out.
Sea of Dust: A bleak desert of powdery gray ash fills this enormous basin that was formerly the Suel Imperium. A fertile landscape once extended for 1,000 miles west and south until it was inundated by the Rain of Colorless Fire, sent in retaliation by the survivors of the Baklunish Empire after it had been brought low by the Invoked Devastation cast by the Suloise a millennium ago.
What remains is an endless vista of ash and dust shaped into dunes. Howling desert winds often whip the surface into choking clouds that strip flesh from bone, making vision impossible and breathing a torment. This environment is made even worse by the addition of volcanic ash and cinders that rain down from the Hellfurnaces to cover the already ghastly landscape. Below the dusty surface, the ash is packed and nearly hard as rock; no plant will grow here.
Natives of the Sulhauts and explorers from distant lands sometimes enter the Sea of Dust and explore its few ruins in search of treasures of the ancient Suel Imperium. (The Passage of Slerotin is lately used; see: Yeomanry, The.) Those ruins visible from the mountain heights are the most frequently visited, but very little is recovered from these fairly accessible locations anymore. It is believed that vast wealth and magic lie in the recesses of the ruins, or in the lost capital of the Suel Imperium, somewhere in the central expanse of the Sea of Dust. Now called the Forgotten City, this buried metropolis is said to remain nearly intact, with only its tallest spires protruding from the ash.
Incredibly, life exists in the Sea of Dust. In addition to hideous monsters that ooze, scurry, or creep through vast tunnels carved beneath its surface by even greater monsters, intelligent fire newts dwell in the lower Hellfurnaces. The fringes of this vast basin also hold examples of humanity. A tall, slender folk of ebony hue dwells on the southwest edge of the desert, pursuing a nomadic life where the caustic dust gives way to fertile soil. Another human race lives under the shadow of the Hellfurnaces on the desert’s eastern border. These short, stocky people cover their bodies with an odorous wax to protect against the caustic dust and burning sun.
It is speculated that both these peoples must have special knowledge of the ruins near their territories, which would be of great value to expeditions from foreign lands. However, it is unlikely they are willing to provide any assistance without powerful inducements, for they are notoriously difficult to threaten or intimidate. They also prey on explorers in a weakened condition.