The Shimmering Sea
To the west of the Scablands and Ghitu Azrak, the Shimmering Sea stretches to the edge of the continent and melts into the Sandsaber Coast. Low, flat, and monotonous, the Shimmering Sea is comprised of light, fine, white-flecked sand that sparkles both under the sun and in moonlight. This glimmering is caused by the countless specs of finite glass that is mixed with the sand itself, a feature that gives the region its other notable name – The Sea of Shards. Due to this infusion of glass, the Shimmering Sea is a treacherous place, turning even the tiniest windstorms into gruesome, flaying gales that slash and scour all in their path. Winds regularly sweep across the Shimmering Sea from the bordering ocean, forcing the denizens of the Sea of Shards to find shelter to survive. The glass is mostly a product of the intense heat that escapes from vents and fissures deep below the surface that are sourced from the volcanoes and magma flows from Lavagout. Some of these fissures are supernatural, allegedly fueled from the Plane of Fire, and creates a second sort of glass, known as Lavaglass. Lavaglass is sharp, red-tinged, and translucent, as light as ordinary glass but as hard and durable as steel. Lavaglass is a unique phenomenon to the Shimmering Sea, and its existence nurtures both the conflicts of the Shimmering Sea’s inhabitants and their relationships with the peoples beyond.
The Shimmering Sea forms its border with both Ghitu Azrak and The Scablands on its eastern edge, where the fine, glinting sand shifts to the grasses of the Azrak homeland and the rocky barrens of the Orc domain. In the southeast, the sands give way to fields of salt in a mountain corridor that leads from the Shimmering Sea to the Dead Wastes, and at the direct south, the black and red veined Heartfire Mountains separate the Sea of Shards from Lavagout. The north and west reaches of the Shimmering Sea both end at a soft slope that falls into the Sunset Sea, which unlike the land of glassy sand is truly an ocean.
The Shimmering Sea is largely featureless, as the abrasive windstorms have long since scoured any rock formations, hills, or other such terrain markers. The land is flat as far as the eye can see, other than the dunes formed by the wind. There are places throughout the Sea of Shards that lead to the underground, with most of those located in the southern reaches. To those who inhabit the land, the land is roughly divided into four smaller regions called the Painted Sands, the Sandsaber Coast, the Firemines, and the Windscream Plain.
The Painted Sands are named for the Iban’Iwa, or Painted Elves, that dwell in the north and west of the Shimmering Sea, near the borders of the Scablands. The Iban’Iwa roam these lands, collecting what lavaglass they can find, as well as surviving off of the land as well as they can. A few passages to the underground can be found in this region, where the elves collect certain minerals they use to make their paints. Sometimes windstorms will unearth these minerals, scattering them through the sands and giving bands of color to the terrain. Though nomadic, the Painted Elves do form camps where they may stay for days or weeks and to protect themselves from storms. They make their tents from the hides of certain beasts that roam the Shimmering Sea as well as dinosaurs from the Scablands, which are resistant to the scouring winds.
The Sandsaber Coast makes up the entirety of the western edge of the Shimmering Sea where the sands border the ocean, ending in the northernmost area where the grasses of Ghitu Azrak take over. The coastal region is only a few miles wide, but noticeably different from the rest of the Shimmering Sea. The cooler temperatures and proximity to the ocean support much more life – the ocean offers plants and fish and more sources of groundwater, and the sand here contains much less glass. T he winds that come off of the ocean may blow first through the coastal areas, but they do not pick up their infamous flaying powers until they get further inland. The lamia dominate much of the coast and fiercely defend it from all others, which makes them perhaps the greatest force in the Shimmering Sea.
The Firemines comprise the southern region the Shimmering Sea, in the shadow of the dark Heartfire Mountains. Here the land is the hottest and the sand is the glassiest, the volcanic forces from Lavagout fully at work. This area boasts the highest concentration of lavaglass, and countless caves and caverns lead below the surface here where the material is mined from. Rivers of magma flow below the crust and surface in small lavaflows. The troglodytes claim mastery over much of this area, but are continuously contested by the Gnolls of Lavagout who contest them at every turn.
The expansive center of the Shimmering Sea is known as the Windscream Plain both because of the howling, scouring winds that blow through it, and for the screams of the countless warriors who have fought and died there. The Windscream Plain is the endless battlefield for all of the conflicting peoples of the Shimmering Sea, where they war over resources and lavaglass. Lamia, elves, Gnolls, and troglodytes all trade blows in this contested territory, bodies left for the winds to strip clean.
The Iban’Iwa are among the most prevalent of peoples of the Shimmering Sea, occupying territory in the northwest of the land. The painted elves are divided into nomadic tribes that move about the area, hunting what game the Sea of Shards has to offer and locating sources of water and lavaglass. Though tribes operate independently from one another, the Iban’Iwa usually avoid conflict among themselves so they can better attack and defend against the other races of the land. Recently, though, there has been a cultural schism among the Iban’Iwa, with two factions disagreeing on the selling and trading of lavaglass to the foreigners of Rekkar-Sarrat. Some Iban’Iwa have refused to take sides in the schism, but those that have now fight one another even as they battle other outside enemies. The Iban’Iwa sometimes stray into the western parts of the Scablands when game is scarce in their own home, and a few tribes have even begun to migrate in that direction. The Iban’Iwa prize lavaglass as a sacred material blessed by ancestral spirits and is of great import to them culturally and spiritually as well as materially.
The vicious lamia populate the coastal region of the Shimmering Sea and reap the benefits of their habitat. Healthier, better nourished, well stocked on resources, and largely unmolested by the flaying winds, the lamia have established themselves as the force to be reckoned with in the Sea of Shards. A tauric race, the lion-bodied species have turned raiding and slaying into an art form, regularly claiming devastating victories over their enemies. They are said to be descended from demons who long ago dwelled in Lavagout, a notion supported by the lamia being versed in the demonic language and often possessing dark, sorcerous powers. The lamia operate in groups they call cabals often led by a powerful female sorceress or witch . They have the only true permanent structures in the Shimmering Sea, having excavated stone and rock from the ocean and the coast to built sturdy huts up and down the coast, where the winds do not carry the scouring glass they are known for. They subsist substantially on fish, crustaceans, bivalves, and shark from the ocean, and on seaweed and other plants, making their diet quite robust. While others scrape by eating insects and small lizards, the lamia thrive. Their lifestyle has made them cruel and vain, and they look greedily at lavaglass as a great luxury and treasure that they feel that they deserve above all others.
Troglodytes mostly live beneath the surface of the sands of the Shimmering Sea, but their pursuits often take them topside, as lavaglass as a tendency to move to the surface throughout most of the region. In the Firemines the lavaglass is in high concentration, and much of it underground, bur harvesting it there is a much more dangerous affair due to the proximity to Lavagout and the treacherous landscape around the Heartfire Mountains. They are divided into broods and like the lamia have a matriarchal society, where a brood mother or queen rules with authority. Their subterranean lairs are often found in damp caverns where underground streams flow, which they follow to the surface to conduct raids on other groups who have camped at the topside water source. They have a more plentiful selection of food than the elves do, though are not so well provisioned as the lamia are. Though they have the least in terms of weapons and technology, the troglodytes are the most numerous, which allows them to hold their own. Their most frequent enemies are the Gnolls of Lavagout who fight them for control of the Firemines. The troglodytes regard lavaglass with great superstition and believe it will make them powerful
The Gnolls themselves hail from Lavagout but their alleged Fire Giant masters send them into many surrounding lands to do their bidding. Apart from capturing Shuka slaves from the Dead Wastes, the Gnolls raid the societies of the Shimmering Sea as well, particularly the troglodytes. Their warbands can be found throughout the Sea of Shards, however, even as far north as the Painted Sands. The Gnolls seem to be a fearless lot and have even attacked the lamia holdfasts directly, which is something the elves and troglodytes would never be so brazen as to attempt. They transport the lavaglass they steal or mine back to Lavagout for unknown reasons.
Wildlife is not diverse in the Shimmering Sea, save for the coastline. Few mammals dwell in the region, and those that do are rodents that dwell in the caves beneath the sands. Insects are common and are often found around the humanoid species, feeding off of skin and blood and waste. The presence of beetles, flies, mites, and other insects allows for a sustainable reptile population, and the place is rife with small lizards and snakes, which serve as the primary food source for the Iban’Iwa and the troglodytes (though the later also eat fish in the underground waterways). Yakti are large, flightless birds that roam the Shimmering Sea, snapping lizards up in their long beaks. Their hide and feathers of the yakti has adapted to the harsh winds of the Sea of Shards and they have some level of protection against the storms, at least enough to flee if caught in one without suffering too ill of effects. The yakti are sacred animals to the Iban’Iwa who use them as mounts and companions, but they do not hunt them and only eat the birds when they fall in battle. The lamia, troglodytes, and Gnolls do hunt the birds, however.
The ocean along the coast is full of life – countless species of fish, bivalves, crabs, sharks, dolphins, coral, and rays. Plantlife also crops up along the coast in small carpets of grasses and scrub. Sea turtles lay eggs in the sand on the coast, and sea birds land there for rest during long migratory flights. Perhaps the strangest creature that roams the Sea of Shards is the volkut, a huge quadruped with a thick, nearly impervious hide that can subsist on apparently anything – sand, stone, even lavaglass. It often takes entire warbands to down a volkut, but those who do are richly rewarded with meat and resources. The hide of the valkut is highly resistant to the scouring winds, the bones are hard and dense and strong, the horns can be used as weapons or ground into medicine, and undigested lavaglass can sometimes be found in their stomachs.