Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Barrens

Picture a landscape of rock and sand, where almost nothing grows. Ancient, weatherbeaten trees stand, here and there, like silent, disapproving witnesses of a bygone age, just waiting to die. The lonely winds blow across the stony hills, kicking up dust storms so thick that they can obscure the sun. Scattered across this empty landscape are the ruins of old villages and towns, their names forgotten, their histories lost to the ravages of time and the elements.
Welcome to the Barrens.
Although life is possible in the Barrens, reproduction is not. A thousand years ago, the kingdom that existed here earned the ire of a goddess called Desmidora. She cursed that kingdom, so that no new life would ever begin within its borders. Within a generation that nameless kingdom was undone, its people scattered to the neighboring lands or beyond. Some became gypsies, roaming the West and the South, recounting the cautionary tale of the Barrens.
To this day no life can germinate within the Barrens. No seed will sprout. No bud will blossom. No
animal can conceive. The reason for the curse, the causitive issue remains unknown. Desmidora, like the kingdom she cursed, has fallen on hard times and is all but forgotten except by a few esoteric scholars. Despite her fall from grace, Desmidora's Curse remains in full force.
The Barrens are a quiet, almost empty region viewed with superstitious dread by the neighboring countries. Nevertheless, some people do live in the Barrens.  Scavengers prowl the ruins, looking for anything of value they can resell. Theologians, scholars, sages and priests make the long trek to the Lonely Chapel, trying to divine the cause of Desmidora's Curse. In the Fallows, silver is mined by small groups of prospectors. Merchant caravans cross the cursed kingdom, rather than travel around it, and boatman travel regularly along the Tearful River. Misanthropes and hermits make their homes in the wilderness, as do outcasts and fugitives. Those of a more social bent gather in the region's two settlements, Stillwater and River's Edge.
Stillwater lies in the west, near the lake that bears its name. It is little more than a trading post, offering travelers simple accomodations and a chance to resupply before traveling deeper into the Barrens. Its population is transitory, thriving to several hundred in the hot summer months and dwindling to a couple of dozen in the winter.River's Edge is the largest community in the Barrens. The town is built along the western bank of the Tearful River. Trade is its lifeblood. In River's Edge you can find food and shelter, as well as guides to the region and a variety of services.
The inhabitants of the Barrens are mostly there by choice. They are hardy and self-sufficient. Some are mad. Most are odd. None should be dismissed out of hand.

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