The Zonyar Desert is a broad expanse of hard rock and loose soil, where only the hardiest plants and animals are capable of living. Cactus and hardy trees, reptiles, small mammals, birds, and insects dominate Zonyar’s various ecosystems, especially near the edge of the Ar-Karaz mountains. Each spring, flash-floods come down off those mountains and deluge the outer parts of the desert, leading to a short-lived blooming season dominated by grasses, and which sees the cactus and trees of the region grow flowers and fruits.
Beyond this wide band of loose soil the Zonyar gives way to rolling sand dunes where little lives. Ruins dot these dunes, implying that ancient societies either lived among the sands, or lived there before the sands came. The sands also surround the Long Road, a magical path made of paving stones from some far away source, which is never covered in sand.
The Long Road leads, eventually, to the city of Kelderar, the ancient dwarven stronghold now ruled by the blue dragon Voarex’veiar. The Long Road meets numerous other trails and paths which wind through the more stable portions of the Zonyar Desert, and it is here where the magic of the Road would seem to fail, as the road here isn’t magical.
It is, however, home to numerous predatory groups, and witness to heavily armed caravans bringing goods to and from Kelderar. For centuries, the Long Road has been threatened by bands of gnolls, jackalweres, and others, some working for more powerful monsters who dwell in the desert, while others simply scrabble to survive. Many of these creatures joined forces with Voarex’veiar, called the Azure Lady, when she moved on Kelderar, promised the ability to come and go freely from the great city, which had long barred their entry.
There are still roving gangs of monsters out among the desert though, and not infrequently, a lamia, young blue dragon, mummy lord, or some other leader will arise and gain prominence. Most of these keep to themselves, preying upon merchants and travelers on the fringe of the Azure Lady’s networks of trade and espionage. Sometimes they become powerful enough to gain her attention though, at which point she sometimes makes overtures of alliance with them, seeing lieutenants to patrol and secure the Zonyar. Other times, or when those overtures fail, she put bounties on their heads or tasks specific groups with their capture or destruction.
Recently, a lamia named Igetia has broken her alliance with the Azure Lady, and laid claim to a large portion of the Long Road which she was once tasked with keeping free of unallied bandits. She has instead brought many of those bandits under her leadership, and has all but shut down trade through the sandy portions of the Zonyar, which is causing a recession in Kelderar. While there is a large bounty on her head, and for any information which might lead to her death, she has yet escaped, shifting her operations from one sand-filled ruin to another.
Artwork: “The Great Salt Lake” by Auguste Joilet from Voyage pittoresque dans les grands déserts du Nouveau Monde by Emmanuel Domenech, 1862.