Since the beginning of recorded history in the Flanaess, the Bright Desert has intrigued and challenged mankind. It is supposedly filled with riches -copper, silver, gold, and gem minerals. The harsh climate, wildly varying temperatures, and hostile (Suel peoples) who battle any intruder with ferocious determination and blood lust tend to discourage exploitation. The dervishes rumored to dwell in the bordering Abbor-Alz hills likewise turn away would-be explorers, although if such dervishes actually exist, they are likely to be of Flan extraction and hostile to Suloise nomads. One or two organized forces have attempted to penetrate the Bright Desert, hut none have ever returned to tell what happened.
The vast stretches of prairie north of the Sulhaut Mountains and west of the Crystalmist and Ulsprue Ranges are known as the Dry Steppes. Rainfall is scarce, and few rivers flow in the place. Once the area was well watered and fertile, forming the homelands of the Baklunish Padishahs and Sultans, hut it was destroyed by the Invoked Devastation in the war with the Suloise. It is said that the central part of the steppes is still pleasant and rich, and there is no doubt that various large hordes of Baklunish nomads still roam the area under the rulership of various khans. This borderland of the Flanaess is otherwise unknown to the chronicler. Invading tribesmen from the Dry Steppes are typically light cavalry employing composite bows, light lances, and curved swords.
LAND OF BLACKICE
Those who have ventured far into the northlands beyond the Burneal Forest tell of a strange phenomenon. Instead of the normal stark white snow and translucent blue-white ice, there is an endless landscape of deep blue-black ice, topped only here and there by normal snowfall. Strange arctic monsters prowl these fields of ebony ice, and the few humans who dwell near the place fear to enter it on account of the beasts and supposedly what lies beyond. Stranger still, they are said to tell of a warmer land beyond the ice where the sun never sets and jungles abound.
Regardless of such prevarications, the area is mysterious indeed. Somewhere between the Land of Black Ice and the Blackmoor territory is the reported locale of the City of the Gods, a place where iron buildings tower and it is summer year round, even though the snows are piled deep in the fields surrounding the city. Giving rise to such legends, the Land of Black Ice is worthy of further exploration by daring adventurers.
In the lands north of the Artonsamay, amidst rough and broken ground and jutting crags of the badlands there, a deep canyon of tremendous extent is found. This strange rift in the floor of the oerth is over 180 miles in length and from 10 wide at its end to about 30 in its midsection near the bandit town of Riftcrag. Tales tell us that this rift is more than a mile deep and pocked with caves and caverns. Much of its length has been cleared of monsters, although they still issue forth from the tunnels, it is said. The Plar of the Rift, as the bandit lord styles himself, reportedly uses humanoid troops and monsters to hold the place against their kin, and rich loot is taken by such action. The floor of the rift at its western end is shunned, however, due to the particularly monsters dwelling there. Attempts to clear this area have ended in disaster. Parties from the Shield Lands taking punitive actions against the bandit kinglets report that this state of affairs is indeed true, relating that attempts to surprise the brigands by moving through the Riftcanyon from its western end have proven to he impossible.
Just south of the Riftcanyon is the lonely volcanic cone of haunted White Plume Mountain, avoided by both knights and bandits.
SEA OF DUST
A territory of unknown extent exists behind the Hellfurnaces, south of the Sulhaut Mountains. This bleak desert is the Sea of Dust, the former Empire of Suel or Suloise. History tells us that this was once a fair and fertile realm extending a thousand miles west and southward, too. The merciless and haughty rulers engaged in a struggle for dominance and supremacy over, all of Oerik with the Baklunish, and in return for a terrible magical attack, the Suloise lands were inundated by a nearly invisible fiery rain which killed all creatures it struck, burned all living things, ignited the landscape with colorless flame, and burned the very hills themselves into ash. Whatever the truth of this, the place is certainly a desert today, an endless vista of dust and fine ash in gentle rises and shallow valleys which resemble waves in the ocean.
This aspect is far less picturesque when the winds howl and tear the surface into choking clouds which strip flesh from bone and rise to the clouds, making vision impossible and life hazardous in the extreme. Added to this unwholesome environment are rains of volcanic ash and cinders which are blown from Hellfurnaces to drop upon the forsaken lands that were once an empire of terrible might. Legends tell of strange ruins near the feet of the Sulhauts, and say that somewhere in the central fastness there still stands the remains, nearly intact, of what is called the Forgotten City, lost capital of the Suel Imperium.
There are a few mountain tribesmen in the Sulhauts who reportedly venture into the Sea of Dust now and again to obtain treasure from the remains of the cities and towns buried under the dust. The truth of these tales can not be established, but there is no doubt that there are peoples who dwell within the fastness of the mountain range. Reports of firenewt marauders and other abominations are not uncommon, but may be unreliable. Somewhat similar fables tell of a secret expedition sponsored by the Sea Princes to find bring back the loot left in the Forgotten City. If an expedition ever was organized and left upon the journey, no news of its return has ever been had. This latter tale, though, caused the officials of the Yeomanry to attempt exploration of the far side of the Hellfurnaces, and reliable reports tell of at least one party returning from such a trek, decimated by half, but bearing strange art objects and jewelry back from their explorations in the fringes of the Sea of Dust. More details are not forthcoming from the Freeholder, of course, and the event happened too recently to give rise to sub rosa information.