For thousands of years the Angra flowed across Rubaiyat. She nourished life with water, she carried ships on her broad back, and she ground down mountains to make farm-soil for her people.
To the Sharjad people, the Angra river was eternal and unchanging. Her daily gifts were as certain as the rising of the sun, and her flood-cycles were as divinely fore-ordained as the coming of spring after winter. But one day the inconceivable, the cosmologically impossible happened: Almost overnight, the Angra simply stopped flowing, and the farms, river-barges and cities of the Sharjad lay stranded along the sad, dried-out husk of their provider.
Meanwhile, a red, rune-covered pyramid rose slowly from the pit which once housed the Angra’s heart-spring. As the ancient structure rose, its architect bid his long-buried followers rise from out of the desert sands, to conquer Rubaiyat once again.
Rubaiyat is a harsh, dry wasteland desert. It lays Southwest of Agon’s mainland, off the coast of Merindil, home to the Mirdains, and Nagast, home to the Alfars.
The Return of the Pharaoh
During the Usurper Wars, a powerful deity established himself as god-king of Rubaiyat, calling himself Ur-Khamset, or the Red Pharaoh. He slew or imprisoned the local deities of the desert continent, subjugated its people, and then began shaping his subjects into a powerful army with which to contest the rulership of Agon and force access to the Halls of the Goddess.
Ultimately, the Red Pharaoh was defeated by an alliance of rival gods. But as he expired, the Red Pharaoh cast one final, terrible spell which drained all his human subjects of life and liquid, leaving only skeletons to be buried by the desert. Thus Ur-Khamset took his people with him into apparent oblivion, leaving his conquerors with nothing but bone-strewn ruins to rule.
Unbeknownst to all, Ur-Khamset had foreseen his demise and prepared for it by constructing the Red Pyramid at the bottom of Lake Angra. He imbued the pyramid with spells that would summon and preserve his own-life force at the moment of death, and then resurrect him when the stars were right for his return.
As the Red Pyramid rose from the lakebed, a thousand bony hands clawed their way out from under the accumulated sands of millennia. Gathering in Rubaiyat’s trackless deserts, the Red Pharaoh’s hordes swept down upon the cities of the hapless Sharjad, conquering them with ease. Already, the Red Pharaoh’s winged snake standard flies from the battlements of most cities on Rubaiyat’s mainland.
While most of the Pharaoh’s marauding, sand-tinted skeletons were once human, a few clearly belonged to the strange giants known as the Avaris, who still roam the deserts of Rubaiyat. Though some skeletons’ clothing and equipment has decayed into nothingness, most still wear the exotic, ancient garb which they wore in life, and wield sensuously curved, outlandishly decorated bronze weapons.
Ur-Khamset himself still dwells within the Red Pyramid, commanding his armies using necklaces called Sun Ankh which are worn by his most powerful generals. Though nobody has accomplished this potentially suicidal feat yet, it has been theorized that an adventurer wearing a Sun Ankh would be able to enter the Red Pyramid.
The River’s Orphans
Brushed aside by the Red Pharaoh’s onslaught, the surviving Sharjad retreated to the Leenshards, a chain of verdant islands which lie north of the Rubaiyat mainland – and outside the Ur-Khamset’s reach, at least for now. Visitors to the lands of the Red Pharaoh use the cities of the Leenshards as staging posts, where supplies may be bought and loot sold.
Desperate for outside help, the Sharjad offered richly rewarded quests to groups and individuals who are brave enough to take up arms against the Red Pharaoh. The short-term goal of the Sharjad is survival through the decimation of the Pharaoh’s troops. In a longer perspective, they seek both to destroy Ur-Khamset and to restore the flow of the Angra.
The Sharjad are a short-statured race, approximately the size of alfar, whose most striking feature is their azure blue skin. Tiny white tusks also protrude from the lower jaw of the Sharjad, who tend to have brown or reddish hair, often kept long, and males favor immaculately groomed beards and moustaches. The Sharjad wear flowing white robes over an exceptionally light type of mithril scale mail (called sharjad mail) which offers protection both against damage and the heat.
The Avaris are nomadic giants who roam the desert in small family groups. They tend to be found in Rubaiyat’s most remote and trackless regions, where they lead their camel herds from oasis to oasis, ekeing out a narrow living as herdsmen. The __Avaris_ are utterly xenophobic, and tend to attack anyone who strays near their trails, camps and oases.
The Avaris are basically giant elves. They stand around five meters tall and have the same elongated limbs and lean bodies as the mirdain elves. Their bronze-colored and smooth skin can barely be glimpsed through layers upon layer of flowing white robes. The avaris wear no shoes, and their large webbed feet are especially adapted to running through Rubaiyat’s desert sands. The avaris fight using silvery, wavy-bladed swords called Qadas.
Places of Interest
The Sea of Glass
An apocalyptic battle during the Usurper Wars took place in this region. As a consequence, the sand on a large section of it was melted into black, obsidian-like glass. In the middle of this flat expanse rises a twisted and jagged mountain spire which is home to a very powerful dragon, who attacks anything that trespasses on the plain below. At the base of the spire is an entrance into a dungeon system leading up to the dragon’s lair which lies in the middle of the spire itself. The lair and cave system are protected by serpentines, a brutish but tame reptilian race who live only to serve their draconic masters.
City of Winds
Deep in the central Rubaiyat desert lies the city of the Djinnlord, a Deathless Mage who has ruled his independent city state for centuries. Thus far, the Djinnlord has been able to repulse the attacks of the Red Pharaoh, and the undead generals have decided to pass his town by for now. The Djinnlord’s city is the only intact city in the interior, and one of few places where travelers may trade, train and rest.
The Djinnlord’s town lies atop a low sandstone cliff which rises from the desert sands. It is surrounded by tall, solid walls, within which lies the entrance to one of the richest neithal mines in all of Agon. The town is extremely wealthy and its squares and structures are beautifully decorated. The castle of the Djinnlord lies in the center of town, surrounded by a large park. There are many fountains and wells in town, and magical water issues from all of them.
In addition to Sharjad mercenaries clad in neithal-blue tunics adorned with wind-symbols, the Djinnlord is served by a large number of Air elementals, many of whom patrol the city and its environs. The Djinnlord himself is a Sharjad mage of extraordinary power, who has found a way to extend his life indefinitely.
Halls of Ana-pur
This natural cave system, which lies in a rocky region of southern Rubaiyat, is considered the birthplace of the Sharjad goddess Ana-Pur. The cave system and its adjacent temple are now in the hands of the Avaris, and the Sharjad are desperate to retrieve certain artifacts which the giants found upon conquering the place. The caves are entered through a narrow crack beyond which it immediately opens up into large natural chambers connected by narrow, equally natural tunnels. A Sharjad temple lies directly in front of the entrance, and the entrance lies within its walls. The only way in is through the heavily Avaris-infested temple complex.
The Angra Delta
A muddy, oozing swamp now lies where the Angra once flowed into the Mirrorsea. Passage through this terrain would be near impossible if it wasn’t for the waterlogged paths made by the avaris who have settled here. At the heart of the delta, the giants have flattened a sizable area in which they’ve built their main camp.
Two island fortresses protected the approach to the Angra. One of these is used as a lookout by the giants, the other is now the dwelling of a Deathless Mage who serves the pharaoh.
A large Sharjad city is perched on the edge of the now-dry riverbed, right at the spot where the Angra flowed into the Silk Coast sea. This heavily fortified town was one of the largest Sharjad settlements, and it was one of the last to fall to the Red Pharaoh’s hordes. It is still impressive, though the Red Pharaoh’s undead have torn down many buildings and sections of wall. The Pharaoh’s troops are now thoroughly entrenched here.
This town was the launching point for all Sharjad river traffic up the Angra, and the place where riverborne goods were carried over into ships bound for the Leenshards and beyond. The ocean harbor lies in the northwestern part of town, along the Silk Coast, and it is relatively intact – but fiercely defended by the Pharaoh’s undead troops.