The Desert of Notus

Banner of Notus

Somewhere in the sands of the desert, three Sphinxes slumber in eternal repose, awaiting the next age of the gods, should it ever come. They are the Androsphinx, (human head, lion body), the Criosphinx (ram’s head, lion body) and the Heiracosphinx (hawk’s head, lion body).  In that bygone age, mortals would seek out Sphinxes in search of wealth or knowledge. If they could answer the riddle that the Sphinx would set them, then the Sphinx would allow them a single question that had to be answered truthfully. If they failed the riddle, well then, the mortal’s life was forfeit and they were devoured on the spot. Now the three Sphinxes rest in small Pyramid Mausoleums, dreaming of riddles and tasty morsels of mortal flesh.  Perhaps there dreams will soon be over, and they will once again stalk the hot sands of the desert.

Once, the Great River rushed from the first Cataract of Oceanus, the father of rivers, in the far north, through the second Cataract of Tethys, down to the Shores of Psamathe at the southern edge of the desert, and into the sea. In that delta stood the mighty city of Iskandria.  Here the Myrmidons lived, a warrior race armoured like ants, who fought for Achilles in the Trojan wars. Iskandria teemed with life, commerce, arts, and crafts. Ships plied the Great River, its banks were home to farms and fisheries, vineyards and breweries for the making of fine wines and barley beer.  Irrigation canals ran from the Great River into the deserts, creating farmlands and oases to feed the Myrmidons. The land was blessed by the gods, and filled with abundant life, fed by the Great River.

But now the gods have departed to their divine divans, to sleep the ages away. Where the waters cascaded down in raging torrents at the Cataract of Oceanus, now there is only a trickle that evaporates into empty air before it can reach the parched and dry riverbeds of the once Great River.  Where once a river flowed, there is nothing but a long, winding ditch that cuts through the desert, slowly filling up with wind blown sand. The canals that branched out to either side, once swollen with waters of life, are choked with dust and rocks, and dry, white bones.

Desert Tool Set

The second Cataract of Tethys half way through the Great River’s journey to the sea, was used to divert waters into the irrigation canals. Huge water wheels were set up to capture the power of the raging torrents., all with the blessings of Tethys, a goddess, the mother of rivers, springs and streams, but she has long gone to her rest. Now the waterwheels lie baking in the hot sun, grime and dirt clogging their cogs, rust eats away at their metal brackets, their wooden spokes as dry and brittle as bleached bone.

Iskandria, the city at the Shores of Psamathe (goddess of the beach), once a thriving metropolis crumbles ‘neath the sun’s hammer.  A handful of Myrmidons scratch out a living from the dusty fields, living amidst the cracked houses and shattered streets like the ghosts of once mighty warriors of legend.

Elsewhere, the desert has spread like a tsunami of sand. Lost cities and sunken forts are buried beneath tons of desert dust, waiting to be rediscovered, filled with ancient wonders and long lost treasures.  Rolling dunes march across mile upon mile of sun-stifled desert.

Dragons have crept back into the wilds, untamed, unchallenged, to take up residence amidst the pillared temples and cities of old. Even the Valley of the Kings where the ancient Myrmidon lords were buried is lost to time, the desert and dragons.

And where dragons roam so do the Spartae – when a dragon’s tooth falls to earth, up springs a skeletal hoplite with spear and shield. Over the years, many dragon’s teeth have fallen. These Spartae have formed themselves into regiments of undead hoplites, appointing their own lieutenants and commanders, taking over the forts that the Myrmidons once built to control these lands.  Now the Spartae range up and down the desert in search of blood or battling amongst themselves for supremacy.

And as if that were not enough, out in the Western edges of the desert, in a part of the desert now called ‘The Land from which No-one Returns’ there dwell cockatrices, whose touch is poison and who’s breath is death. Yet their blood is said to cure all ills, so it is that desperate men and women will sometimes seek them out.[1]

[1]‘Where are you off to, dear?’
‘Just popping out to the Land from which No-one Returns’
‘Ah… well, I suppose you won’t be home for supper then?’
‘Umm… no, probably not.’