Non-Canon Locations: The Lost Desert
Created by, and Copyright to Dace_Vari
Located well beyond the Salt Flats, across a nearly impassable span of ever-shifting sand, lies the land of the Lost Desert. The only way that a traveler could make the journey is through a combination of physical conditioning, mental determination and sheer luck, that they might find enough small oases along the way to sustain them.
The people of Amaha are ruled by Matriarchy. There is always a ‘Queen’ amongst them. Rule passes from Mother to daughter, and has been in the same ‘line’ for the past nearly 300 years since the time of Queen Sunspot. The eldest filly of the Queen is known as the “First Mare” once she reaches adulthood, and is formally called the Queen’s Daughter before that.
Rule by a Queen does not mean that there is no place for Stallions amongst them. It is the Queen’s Council, made up of a group of four stallions, who are the Queen’s highest advisors, and she must consult them for any ruling decision regarding their people. The Council may act upon their own discretion in many matters, speaking with the voice of the Queen. Position in the Council is also hereditary, passing either to sons, or the husband’s of fillies, however often times due to their lifestyles, these stallions forgo the act of taking a mate, and don’t have offspring. If a stallion in the Council dies without offspring, a new stallion may be ‘elected’ into the position.
If it should happen there is no female offspring to follow the line, then a male child of the Queen’s line must marry the daughter of one of the Queen’s Council. He will rule beside her, becoming a temporary fifth member of the Council.
Lastly, the Queen is never older than 25 years of age. When she reaches that age, the reign passes to her daughter and she becomes known as the ‘Elder Mare’. It is an equally honorary title, however she will no longer participate in the activities that the Queen oversees. The ‘Elder Mare’ always participates in decisions made by the council and she frequently is responsible for training the First Mare in the ways of ruling.
The current Queen is Lassel Heart of the Sun. (Queen’s are always given the surname ‘Heart of the Sun’ – in honor of their first Queen, and of Amaha). Her eldest daughter, the ‘First Mare’ is Salell, and her dam, Rallas, is ‘Elder Mare’.
People of the Desert
: Unicorns from the Lost Desert are similar in build to those of the Vale folk, and Free People, though they are slightly longer of limb and more slender. Their tails are still tasseled at the end, but sprout only a thin line of hairs until only several inches before the tip. The hair of their tail tassel, as well as their manes, ear tufts, beards and fetlock fringes is silky and soft and can sometimes have a natural curl to it. Their horns curve slightly backwards and are quite narrow at the base. They have very big eyes, and long eyelashes that keep dust out, and they also have narrow nostrils that they can ‘close’ in the event of sand storms. Their cloven hooves have an extra bit of ‘connective skin’ on the bottom between their toes that helps them in walking over the sands.
Desert dwellers come in lots of colors and patterns, though they tend to be muted, as extremely dark and vibrant colors absorb heat faster, so the trait of darker colors is slowly giving way towards lighter shades. Black is virtually unheard of and even black markings are rare. However, white is also a rarity. There have been only two occasions of pure white coats ever showing up in the Lost Desert in the herd’s memory. The first was to a foal who did not live very long, and the second to their greatest known visionary.
The only other ‘special’ coloration would be unicorns with coats that are colored like the sand and dunes. These unicorns are recruited from an early age to become ‘sand-stalkers’ – a special ‘regiment’ of warriors that are chosen for the task based on their ability to blend in with their surroundings.
The home to the Desert folk can be found in a low valley in the center of a u-shaped range of hills and ridges. They refer to it as Amaha’s Valley. It is, in essence, an oasis in the midst of the desert. Due to its low elevation, water is plentiful and the mouth of a river, formed from an arteisan well, springs up from the midst of the valley. Because of the way the sun reflects upon the water, it is known to the Desert folk as the River of Light. There are lots of tall palm trees with heavy green fronds, and succulent, heavy-bladed grass grows thick near the water.
The ridges surrounding this hidden oasis are high, sharp-edged cliffs of rock, and tumbling dunes of sand. Spreading out beyond this border, the desert itself holds dominance. While there are small spots of life upon this ever-shifting sea of sand, they are few and far between. The desert is a desolate and unforgiving place.
The people of the Lost Desert worship Amaha, The Mare of the Sun, called: She who Guides our Hooves. Their beliefs are very similar to those of the Ring Dancers and the tales they tell of their Goddess differ only slightly. The similarity between this lore suggests a long-distant tie between the folk from the Hallow Hills… The main difference though is that while Alma is most closely tied to the Moon, Amaha is worshiped with the sun. There are daily rituals performed when the sun rises, when it reaches its apogee, and when it sets. The people of Amaha also do have rituals tied to the moons phases, but they are not as prevalent as the sun-worship.
Much like the Hallow Hills, there is a Sacred Mere, called the Tarn of the Sun, where upon Visionaries can gaze to catch glimpses into the future. Unlike the Mere, the Tarn is a place that Desert dwellers can visit at any time, and they often come to gaze upon the waters when the sun it at its peak and reflected in its mirror surface. However, the visions they might see upon the water are often vague, and most often require the help of Visionaries to unravel.
There are several predominant ‘professions’ amongst the Desert folk. The majority are warriors, well trained in the desert fighting tactics. There is also a special ‘faction’ of warriors known as the ‘sand-stalkers’. These are warriors specially chosen for this task because of their sand-colored coats, and their ability to blend in with their environment outside of the oasis. Sand-stalkers often patrol the desert surrounding Amaha’s Valley, keeping it free of predators. There are also loreists, those unicorns who keep the history of their people through the use of songs and tales. Healing and herbalism and midwife-ing are also well-respected occupations and healers are always known by the smudges of red-clay that are marked upon their shoulders and flanks. The rarest and most respected position amongst the Desert people is the role of the Visionary. There are usually no more than two or three amongst the Valley at any one time. Visionaries are like seers, but they have the ability to interpret dreams and visions. They may also gaze upon the Tarn of the Sun to have visions of their own and re-view these visions regularly. Often times, they spend years puzzling out the interpretations of their greatest visions.
The surrounding desert is harsh and supports very little life; however several industrious species manage to survive there. On the high, sandy dunes, very little in the way of flora or fauna can be found, but in the lowlands, where the hint of water lies deep beneath the surface, hardy specimens manage to thrive. Of plant life, there are many different types of cacti and ground-crawling, thorny brush.
Several varieties of hare and rodent, all long of limb, make their burrows in the rocks and come out at night, when the rays of Amaha are turned away, to forage for succulents and the rare desert greens. Many insects and small lizards also hide beneath the rocks, coming out at night to hunt for prey. There is a large type of herbivore that also survives well in these arid lands, a long-legged, humpbacked creature of rudimentary intelligence. Unicorns can communicate with these beings, but rarely do so, as they have no formal society and only express simple interests such as foraging and water.
In Amaha’s Valley itself, there are quite a few species of long-legged water bird that live in the rushes surrounding the banks of the River of Light. Small deer-like creatures often share the grazing land with unicorns, and slight but sleek hunting cats, with spotted coats often make their homes in the trees.
Desert folk make their homes in small caverns and grottos or in the shelter of thick, cave like groves of trees and they tend to have at least three or four families grouped together in one abode. When they rise in the morning, they spend several minutes performing the ritual of ‘Welcoming the Morning’ which basically involves facing the sun, going to a knee and bowing their horns before it for several minutes. A similar ritual is performed at high noon, when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. Although this time they rear up to their hind legs and whinny and nicker joyously, proclaiming their loyalty to Amaha. In the evening they repeat the ritual of the morning, however they face away from the setting sun, to ‘Dismiss the Night’.
Desert unicorns take mates for life, and they may chose to do so at any time. A pair must declare their intent before the Queen and her Council, and a small ceremony is performed which is attended by the families of the mare and stallion, and is presided over by one of the Visionaries. Foals are born year round, however mares in the desert do not conceive very easily so foals are very joyously celebrated amongst them. There is a small glade with its own pool of water and tall trees over head where a pregnant mare and the midwife will go to when it is close to her time and they will stay there until after the birth, being tended to by various mares and stallions in the dam and sire-to-be’s family.
There is also a separate part of the Valley, a deceptive, sand-covered bog, where the dead are interred. The bodies of the deceased are brought to this place, and laid out atop the surprisingly solid layer of sand that floats atop the bog. In time, they say that the desert reclaims its own, and the bodies are drawn into the quicksand.
Unicorns in the Desert reach their ‘majority’ at the age of 6, at which time they are considered adults and may chose to become trained as warriors, or apprentice to a different profession. It takes at least two years for them to become adept at their chosen ‘profession’ and they are not considered able to act upon their own in their field until after the two years has passed. The only two exceptions to this are the Visionaries, who are chosen by the other Visionaries and are trained from an early age, and the Sand-Stalkers, who are also chosen young though their schooling does not begin until they reach their majority. While it is not against their practice for those under the age of 8 to marry and conceive, it is not very common.
Desert unicorn offspring are generally named by combining elements of both parents names, or by following an established pattern such as similar vocal sounds or letter use (ex: Ski'tahaz was born to Clie'fyrd and Salyahz). It is extremely unusual for thier given names to be taken from nature or their surroundings as in the manner of the Free People. These given names may be shortened as well (ex: Ski'tahaz is generally called Skitz). Desert unicorns have only their given name, but may choose a surname after they reach their majority. These are usually descriptive terms or chosen for personal reasons. Not all desert unicorns choose a surname and may only be know by their given names thier whole lives. (ex:Ski'tahaz gave herself the surname 'Darkveil' due to her ink-black mane and tail, but all because it suits her personality).
The Desert people call their land as much an enemy as any creature, however there are several species of predator they must watch out for. Pale-maned desert lions stalk the dunes in the mornings and evenings, and packs of laughing sand-dogs also rove the harsh lands. These creatures are simple-minded, however, attacking and killing only for the sake of a meal. It is an equally intelligent creature that is the hereditary nemesis of the Desert folk. Sand boars, a squat and heavy type of swine with long, sharp tusks curving out from their jaws, and coarse manes of spiky hair on their spines, make their home along the River of Light but are ever looking to invade Amaha’s Valley. Half-the size of a full-grown unicorn, they are well-muscled, extremely strong and they use their size to advantage; their preferred method for downing an adult warrior is to gore him in the belly with their viscous tusks. There are several different factions of the Sand boars, and they battle amongst each other for territory as often as they battle with the Unicorns. However, occasionally a Sand Boar tribe will become dominant and try to rally several other groups to attack the unicorns.
If you wish to create a character that comes from the Lost Desert, please keep in mind the elements described here; most specifically that it is extremely difficult to make the journey either to or from the Desert. Most unicorns who try end up losing their lives to the surrounding desert. It is only a rare and lucky few who manage to survive, and it is nearly impossible to repeat the journey.