The Desert of Mirages – Entrance to the Great Eastern Desert

Adventure in the Sands

The Desert of Mirages is a second map of the Project on the Borderlands, and it is also provided in Hexographer format for convenient editing. The map joins to the right of the previous map and expands the Borderlands further. As always the map and its titles are meant to be as generic as possible. Some suggestive text is included hereafter which is meant to be inspiring. Of course GMs are invited to change the map, its titles, and write whatever they like in the way of descriptive text but we hope you find this a useful beginning. As always it is meant to inspire adventure. The map is provided as a Colour Map in Hexographer Format

Project on the Borderlands B Map
Project on the Borderlands B Map, Desert of Mirages

Legends speak of an ancient lost road which winds through the lands of the Bordermen. Once verdant and green the area was turned to a desert by some calamity in ancient times, or so the wise say, and its inhabitants driven out long ago as a result of their transgressions. The Keep’s Scouts who have been this far tell tales of searing hot desert winds which can whip up the shifting sands into billowing clouds. The clouds of grit choke the unwary, bite and sting the weak flesh of man until his spirit is sorely tested, and have gradually reduced the once strong paved stones of the lost road to rubble or hides what remains of them from view. There is rumoured to be a Nameless lost city of the Bordermen concealed in the Desert of Mirages by whatever it is in this desert that befuddles the senses but the city’s exact whereabouts has been lost with the passage of time and few have succeeded in chancing upon it.

Scouts, keen of sight, and wise in the ways of the land, may yet follow what remains of the fading caravan road eastward even though it soon disappears. Wind, weather, and nature have all conspired to obliterate this path and it has become a cursed road, fragmented and intermittent.

At the desert’s edge is the last grazing land, green and verdant grass becomes harder to find the further eastward one travels. The hot wind sometimes burns the grass to straw in terrible years. The pine trees of the forest to the south cling to the poor soil and grow in wretched humiliation, defying nature until as one travels eastward they are at last diminished and disappear entirely, only the barren rock and occasional hill may be found here.

This part of the Borderlands is inhabited by wandering herds of wild goats, buzzards, poisonous snakes, scorpions, and other desert wildlife.

There is a high hill some 600 feet high, called the Lookoff, which provides a vantage point over the open lands hereabouts and if there are evil bandit horsemen here, as there often are, naught escapes them by day. They lay in wait against those who seek the returning trail which may be found beyond the hills to the east. This easy road is by far the most dangerous. To the south-east lie the remains of a battle, scattered across the ground, and haunting lights are sometimes seen in the darkness. A sore conflict was once fought here by some forgotten armies and now foes lay together in jumbled broken heaps, human and inhuman alike share an open grave. Their rusting armour, and bleached bones struggle now only with the wind and sand. Tatters of cloth flap in the wind. This is a lonely place and one the bandits fear.

If one is brave enough to fight off bandits, they may find the remnants of the lost road for it points like an arrow due east. Beyond in the wastes may be found an Oasis but travellers seldom reach this sanctuary for there is danger here in the desert which beguiles the senses.

The Desert of Mirages is known for its powerful illusions. The senses are deceived and no grasp of direction may be maintained; even a compass fails here. The stars do not shine, and day and night may seemingly pass in the span of a few hours while biting sands are whipped into clouds by the wind preventing visibility. Many travellers simply wander the desert until they ultimately wander as the living dead.

The Oasis, is a point of calm within this maelstrom. There is a well here and a tumbled ruin. Once reaching the safety of the oasis, many travellers simply turn back rather than face the difficulties that lay beyond.

Some have sought alternate routes across this part of the Borderlands. One may attempt to follow the mountains through the Boneshaker Foothills. The ever-present undead make this a difficult prospect, and ghouls are known to hunt here; they are not fussy about whether their victims are already dead or not. Beyond are the hunting grounds of the Howling Hills, foothills wherein voracious terrors scream at the dark of the moon.

Desert Scorpions
Desert Scorpions

A southern route might also be chosen along the Cactus Coast to follow the edge of the world where sand and sea meet, thus avoiding the desert proper. But it too offers little respite. There is a ruined city here whose name is long forgotten, as are the ancient people who once built it, though their work has stood the test of time. It is weathered now, this Lost Horizon, and its houses are empty. Strange ships, old caravels, lay at anchor in the harbour here, having sunk at anchor or driven ashore, where they lay abandoned as leaky and unseaworthy hulks. Those still afloat are old beyond measure, a testament to the sturdy black wood they are made of. Their hulls are still watertight and covered with barnacles and seaweed below the water line; above their decks are painted white with the dung of sea birds. Their crews vanished long ago. The winds here are all onshore and no ship may leave harbour without being towed. No one stays here for long before they begin to hear whispers and other un-natural sounds.

A measure of hospitality from the desert may be found at isolated farms surrounding the city, and in outposts along the coast some hardy people, descendants of a nomadic desert tribe, do manage to eke out a subsistence living by growing such crops appropriate for the climate and by fishing. Goats are kept in herds for they are hardy enough to take from the land things the people do not eat and thus thrive. The farmers are afraid of the city and do not willingly go there.

To the east the outpost Forlorn Hope is a small market town which provides a measure of protection from the wind, but water here is a precious commodity, held in cisterns deep underground. Water, salt, and fish are the most important trade goods. There are date farms here, and goats are kept in herds to provide both meat and milk. There is an ancient ruin here said to be built by the Bordermen but it has largely been plundered to build the market town. However, the ruin is still a significant feature and landmark. There is no good anchorage here so large vessels seldom stop here, though smaller trade vessels that can draw up on shore sometimes visit the area. The inhabitants of the market town are descended from a nomadic desert people. They maintain ties with their nomadic relations who inhabit the Great Eastern Desert but contact between them is infrequent.

Revision 2017-01-27, I noticed that the zip file did not contain the hexographer map, my apologies. I have replaced the monochrome Project on the Borderland maps with colour maps and I will revisit the monochrome maps in a subsequent post – Greg

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Greg MacKenzie is the author of the novella Seven Crows a Secret, the Fenris 2d6 role playing game, adventure modules Gloomland, and Wildwood, as well as countless other adventures.

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