Daring travelers, welcome back! In today's episode of Fridays in AEthrem we fly east along the equator, returning to the main continent of Pelifor! We leave behind the steamy jungles of Tefira, trading them for the parched, sand-swept wastes of the Lahana Desert!
Stretching from east to west across the entire continent of Pelifor, the Lahana desert breaks the continent in two. To the north lies the most venerable and traditionally dominant human nations, including such great powers as Thassyl and Condrace, among many lesser countries. South of the desert, nearly all of the continent now belongs to Ferridon, although it was once home to various colonies and independent powers prior to the First's rise to power in the south.
Legends dating back to the fall of the early ghond civilization tell that central Pelifor was once a warm, fertile land, but some sacrifice agreed to by ghond thandi destroyed the land itself, turning it dry and uninhabitable in exchange for victory against the ss'ra. No one can prove the truth of these tales, but the Lahana certainly contains numerous ruins of once-thriving ghond cities, ripe targets for treasure hunters and archaeologists alike. The remnants along the outskirts of the desert have been searched thoroughly, but many potential sites still remain untouched further in, at much greater risk to would-be explorers.
Along its periphery, the land is relatively stable, if unsuitable to permanent settlement. Scrub lands give way to sun-baked clay flats here. This area is home to nomadic human tribes that have lineages going back into distant antiquity. These wanderers have subsisted on what foraging and hunting are available, and have traditionally trade between northern and southern human nations using coastal caravan routes to supplement what the desert provides them. Modern aerial shipping has made these caravans all but obsolete, pushing these tribes to more illicit dealings such as smuggling or banditry.
The interior of the Lahana Desert is made of an endless stretch of sand, piled in wind-swept dunes that only increase in size the further inward one travels. Few, if any landmarks exist for explorers, and the wind changes the terrain on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Sudden windstorms have been known to swallow the remains of entire ghond cities whole, and aircraft are regularly lost attempting to travel over the interior desert during poor conditions. There are no permanent residents of the interior desert, except for a few hardy individuals that survive only due to the rare oasis or rock-walled ravine to call home.
It is within the hazardous interior of the Lahana Desert that intrepid explorers can find its greatest possible treasure: the untouched remains of a ghond city. The residences and central pyramid of the city can hold a bounty of treasures - ancient coinage and artwork, or even the relics and recorded wisdom of early thandi. To academics, however, the ruin itself is a treasure far beyond any monetary value - everything from carvings to the artifacts of daily life in desperate need of cataloging and prolonged study.
However, these ruins hold their own share of dangers. Superstition holds that these cities were cursed by ancient ghond thandi, and many of their discoverers have met untimely ends within their walls. Most commonly, this happens due to one of many traps - left behind by fleeing ghond or besieging human armies and never triggered. Even worse, these traps could be brand new - installed by the current subterranean ghond culture to protect one of their active exits to the surface world. Sudden ambushes by members of the ghond warrior caste are not uncommon. Other living threats include any of the few species to survive in the modern Lahana: many varieties of snakes, scorpions, and the infamous Lancer Scarabs, swarms of which can allegedly strip a victim down to their bones in a only a few ravenous minutes of feeding.
For any and all of these reasons, experienced venture companies are in high demand for anyone setting out on an expedition into the Lahana Desert. These contractors can provide ready labor, navigational assistance, but especially security against the threats of the desert itself and ambushes by rival, jealous explorers, which are all too common. Many universities' archaeology departments and individual professors have long-standing contracts with one or more venture companies, relying on them for several expeditions over the years. Proving your business capable on an expedition can be very lucrative in the long term, if your venture company can safely navigate the Lahana's many hazards.
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