Lands of Autumn: The Lotus Desert

To the east, covering an area many times the size of the Lands of Autumn, and some say stretching on infinitely, lies the Lotus Desert. An endless verdant desert of small violet petals, dotted with the empty husks of cities ancient and new, many enterprising men will risk life and, some say, soul to harvest its crop of halluciogenic pollen, worth its weight in gold or steel in the parlours and dens of Muir and Ursk. The pollen of the Lotus brings both euphoria and a pleasant numbness, but so pleasant are its visions that those who would enjoy the dream of the Lotus quickly find themselves hopelessly and permanently addicted. These wretches will eventually find themselves bereft of coin to barter for their false paradise, and thus have no recourse but to travel into the desert to procure it for themselves. Sustained by the petals and nectar of the Lotus, they wander aimlessly until they eventually succumb, rejuvinating the soil with their emanciated husks.

Unlike many places within the Lands of Autumn, the Lotus Desert is safe and bereft of the abominations that crave the flesh of men. It has but one inhabitant, called the Uyen-Tir or “Death’s Herald” by the peoples of the cities of the east. The Uyen-Tir is a small butterfly, purple-violet in hue, that spreads the Lotus inexorably west, destroying all other vegetation. It reproduces by laying eggs in the still living bodies of addicts, who serve as food for the new generation. While the process is damaging to the host, a single man may bring forth as many as a thousand of the Uyen-Tir after years and sometimes decades before his body is so ravaged he can no longer find the energy to feed himself. Thus they lie down and die, a torrent of Uyen-Tir bursting forth at the moment of their demise.

None know how old the Lotus Fields are, and where they originated from, but it is said that if one travels east it is almost as if one travels back in time, the husks of cities becoming older and older as one travels miles and miles. The history of Sybarra itself is stretched out across the infinite expanse, and even older civilisations may be found, deep within its fields. Crumbling palaces, leaning towers and temples to gods unknown and unknowable dot the flat landscape, every stretch of unpaved soil covered in the Lotus. Far from the Lands of Autumn, faded murals in empty halls show alien landscapes covered in the Lotus.

Near the edge of the Lotus fields, one can find many abandoned villages. Many mystics, demagogues and would-be messiahs, inspired by the visions of the pollen, see the Lotus Desert as the afterlife, the only salvation from onrushing Final Night and the harshness of the Age of Dusk, and many of those at the edges eventually heed their promise of salvation and follow them into the desert, dreaming away their time until they feed the soil with their corpses. These Lotus cults precede the Desert, seeping into the Lands of Autumn, hated by corrupt priests, paranoid monarchs and greedy merchant princes.

As one travels onward, in search of ancient treasures or knowledge long thought lost, one will encounter many of those lost to the lotus. Often they are friendly, barely aware of their surroundings, and always accompanied by the Uyen-Tir that lairs in their flesh. Some will ask only that you share the bounty of the Lotus with them, others will attempt force it upon those who decline. They are never capable combatants, but they feel neither pain nor fear.

One of the more puzzling regions of the Lotus Fields is the Plain of Judgement, larger then many a petty fiefdom, covered with thousands upon thousands of great statues of basalt and granite sculpted by ancient and possibly nonhuman hands. All have three faces, one smiling, one hating and one weeping, and all carry great weapons and baroque armour of alien design. Some lie crumbling upon the fields. They seem locked in mortal combat, and if one can find the stone tablets of the Sages of Lost Turr, who made it their task to study them from afar for centuries, one discovers that they move over the centuries in long drawn-out battle over stakes lost to history.

Some, and this should be taken with a grain of salt, for even adventurers laden with ancient gold and pre-sybbaran treasures are still adventurers and therefore liars say that if one travels far enough, one eventually comes upon the Dreaming Cities. Crumbling and ill-maintained, these cities are inhabited by addicts, who live long enough to sire offspring and raise it before they are taken by the Uyen-Tir. In a soporofic parody of existence, they wander through the crumbling streets aimlessly or dream in the shadows of dilapidated buildings, sipping nectar and eating petals, blissfully unaware and unknowing.

As to what ancient secrets lie buried within these cities of dream and death, unguarded behind open doors, who can say?

The Desert advances, inexorably, metres every year, seeking to encapsulate the world in blissfull servitude. Who is to say we are not better off this way?

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