The Sands of Shimmering Wealth

  /  The Sands of Shimmering Wealth

A brutal desert ruled over by extreme temperatures. The searing sun during the day brings the temperatures up to an average of 100 degrees with extremes as high as 140 degrees. The frigid cold at night after the sun has set drops the temperatures to an average of 25 degrees with extremes getting into the single digits.

As if the harsh temperature extremes were not enough, the desert is also home to all sorts of dangerous creatures; most of which have adapted to the harsh environment by growing hard exoskeletons, chitinous plating, burrowing under the ground, or a combination of these things. Add in the sandstorms which can reach up to 100 kilometers per hour, reduce visibility to virtually nothing, and strip dye from armor; and it is a surprise that any people would live in this environment.

Despite all these dangers, within the Sands of Shimmering Wealth are a variety of tribes and races. The most prominent among them are the Aeshu, who after generations of living in and around the great desert have mastered survival within its harsh climate.

It is rumored that the Aeshu are the descendants of those who survived the destruction of Val’Therin and then fled to the east. After months of traveling through the desert they arrived on the southeast coast of Sylvaris and discovered a large uninhabited island not far off the shore. The island had arable land which the Aeshu quickly took advantage of to begin growing crops and building a small village. Over the centuries the once small village has grown into one of the largest and debatably the wealthiest city in all of Sylvaris. Renamed the City of Sunlight, very little of the original foundations still stand; most of them having been replaced with alchemically-enhanced sandstone that absorbs the heat of the sun helping to keep the city cool and pleasant during the day and then slowly emitting that heat throughout the night to keep the bitter cold at bay, while also providing a bit of a dull glow to help guide ships to port.

While the City of Sunlight is one of the greatest achievements of the Aeshu and one of the great wonders of the world of Sylvaris, it is only a small part of the Sands of Shimmering Wealth and the Aeshu presence within it. Along the coastline are many small villages, towns, and trading hubs that sustain themselves off the ocean’s bounty as well as cultivating small orchards and farmland. There is usually enough produced to sustain the village and provide a small surplus which can be traded for other needed items.

Last but not least among the Aeshu within the Sands of Shimmering Wealth are those who travel the very sands themselves. Some travel alone or in small groups hoping to find a hidden cache of valuable gemstones. Others travel in large family- or even entire clan-sized groups, moving from oasis to oasis and working as traveling merchants while also seeking gemstones or other valuable treasures hidden within the sands.

Just as the Aeshu of the city gain much from their naval shipyards and the trade they bring in; without the valuable caches of gems and precious stones that are brought in from the sandwalking Aeshu or the food which is traded from the coastal Aeshu, it is unlikely either group would last long independently. This is something which the Lords of the City are well aware of. They strive to ensure all Aeshu understand the importance of each other and nurture a strong sense of connection between the various Aeshu. The leaders of the coastal villages and the sandwalking clans are in fact respected to such an extent that they are each granted three Lordships within the City of Sunlight, and along with the three High Lords from the city itself they comprise the council of Aeshu Elders – the Lords of the City; a governing body that oversees all matters for the Aeshu.

The coastal Lords are chosen from among the elders of each of the Aeshu villages along the coastline and each Lord is reaffirmed every five years. If the Lord is thought to have been unsuccessful in ensuring the needs of the coastal villages, that trade prices are kept fair, etc., then they would be replaced at this time.

It is said that the sandwalker Aeshu have a similar practice, but it is not entirely clear to those outside the sandwalker clans how the Lords are chosen. Some say it is only the best warriors who become representatives for the sandwalkers, while others claim it is those who best understand the ways of the desert and how to survive in it. Like the coastal Lords, the Sandwalker clans meet every five years to determine who their Lords will be for the next five years; and each year a series of contests are held. The contests are said to be a means of reducing worthy applicants for the position. Upon completion, the clan leaders will ponder and discuss the results for up to five days, at the end of which they will declare the Lords for the next five year cycle.

Among the Aeshu of the City of Sunlight, it is a much simpler process. There is a scheduled transition between the noble houses where they each serve as one of the three high houses for a six year period with one of the three positions changing out every two years. Altogether, the Lords on the council from the City of Sunlight work with the Lords of the coast and the Lords of the sand to ensure that all Aeshu prosper. Guaranteeing that work is available for all Aeshu with fair wages, that food is available in the markets, and that trade flows through the shipyards and across the desert. It is a delicate balance that the Aeshu have maintained for centuries.

While the Aeshu are the most numerous and prominent of the desert’s dwellers they are not its only inhabitants. Within the sands are small tribes of humans who have learned from the sandwalker Aeshu and use the knowledge they have gained to travel the desert either seeking riches or simply to enjoy a humbler lifestyle then what is most often found in the larger cities.

Along the western and northern edges of the desert it is also common to find tribes of desert Dwarves. Some venture into the desert in search of the hidden pockets of gems which they can mine while others maintain and keep the watchtowers on the borders with the Mists of Tyn’dur. If asked, the Dwarves will simply say that they do it because that is what they have always done, and it must continue to be done or the mists will envelop the world. Some say these brave Dwarves not only travel into the desert, but that they also travel into the mists on occasion; but none will speak of such things except to their most trusted friends, and any who make such claims falsely will often suffer these Dwarves’ disdain and perhaps even violence.

These Dwarves revere the sands and the mists and have many traditions built around them. They read omens of what is to come by placing desert sand in a crystal bowl and swirling it around. Sand is thrown from the bowl until, with a sudden stop, the sand forms a pattern in the bowl which tells the seer what is to come. It is also said that these Dwarves have found a way to bottle the Mists of Tyn’dur, and that inhaling of these mists grants them a type of supernatural precognition or other unusual powers.

The Sands of Shimmering Wealth are more than everything described above and contain many more unusual and exotic flora and fauna. Entire volumes could be written on the vast ecosystem that is the Sands of Shimmering Wealth. For now, these tidbits of information will hopefully provide some insight into this part of Sylvaris for any who are brave enough or adventurous enough to journey there. Keep your wits about you. The desert is a dangerous place; but it holds many beautiful secrets for those with the strength, intellect, and bravery to discover them.

– Yarid, the Traveler