Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Desolation of Ozymandias

It is said that some of the oases in this desert are filled with wine instead of water. Each was a drop spilled by the Father of Wine from his cup, which he still held as he fled from justice. While some may think this paradise, many are said to have died from the false courage and quickness to anger that result.

The Mothers of the Desert, the benign spirits that watch over oases, are said to be absent here.

Some come to this desert seeking a certain cave. There they stay for three days and nights, eating nothing and drinking only water. At the end of that time, if they survive, they will cast strawberry leaves and handfuls of mustard seeds into the desert. Finally they will torture themselves, using implements of exquisite beauty and craftsmanship. It is said that the torture must continue until the supplicant does not recognise their own screams of pain, but believes that they are torturing another, and have nothing but hate and contempt for that other. At this point those who sleep beneath the desert will awaken.

Others come seeking the Arms Dealers. These creatures will give anyone a new arm in exchange for removing their current one. They will trade even if the current arm is deformed, diseased, ruined in an accident, or otherwise unsound. They will trade for an arm that has a hand missing, but not for one severed anywhere below the wrist. They will only take living arms from their owners, but have taken arms from people brought there by third parties and under obvious duress. They will never trade a right arm for a left, or vice versa. Indeed they seem to regard the idea as disgusting.

They will never take anything other than the arm itself, and the hand if it is attached. If someone with painted fingernails were to trade their arm, they would be given back the nail polish. They will likewise remove and return tattoo ink.

There seems to be no profit possible in this trade. Yet it seems to occupy all of their time. It is also unclear why, given that they seem to desire interaction with people, they choose to live in isolation. It is true that, if someone has no arm to trade, they will charge a very high price. But they have never been known to spend any of the money so gained.

It is said that once they gave the arms of a murderer, and they strangled against the will of their new owner.

They have been known to enter into bargains with adventurers wherein the Arms Dealers, who never leave their desert home, will instruct their hireling to track down someone with an arm that they particularly desire, to try and persuade them to trade. They always pay in items of great power, never money.

Yet others seek that Ozymandias who gives the desert its name: an ancient king whose capital is said to lie, pregnant with many treasures, somewhere under the sands.

At the edge of the desert, living in caves, is a group of dwarves. These dwarves learned the technique of growing their beards so long that they were able to imitate tumbleweeds, thus giving them the ability to approach their foes and ambush them in the open.

It was long thought that the hair of the beard alone was strong enough, being wiry where the hair of the head is fine. Thus it was believed that female dwarves were unable to learn the art. However some eventually learned to strengthen their hair with beeswax and use the same technique.

Some of these dwarves are also able to hide fierce birds within their beards and release them in combat. Others use their beards as a storage-place.

The use of underarm hair or, worse, the hair attending the generative organs for this purpose, is said be most effective, but to increase the sex drive of any who try it to dangerous levels. Those who travel this dark path will also avoid bathing, since such hairs will cling to any soap that comes within a mile of them. The resultant combination of heightened desire and lowered prospects can easily lead to insanity.

The desert is also home to lizard-folk, and the so-called 'Royal' Lizard-folk. The latter are larger than the common lizard-folk, and utterly devoid of magic other than the ability to send forth gouts of breath which causes the flesh to bubble and hair to fuse though no heat is felt nor flame seen. They are most likely no relation to true lizard-folk. They themselves are said to claim descent from both humans and dragons.

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