From the Deck of a Sandship: Of Mhalmet and the Desert

From the Deck of a Sandship: Of Mhalmet and the Desert

A well-known haven for buccaneers, ne’er-do-wells, and reavers plaguing the White Sea, Mhalmet controls approximately 40 thousand square miles of mostly desert terrain bounded by the Lotus Road ley line, described by some as the “Wall of Mhalmet,” and is bisected by the Mhalmet Road. Caravans experience the same dangers as ships upon the seas unless heavily defended or sponsored in some part by a chair at Mhalmet’s ruling council, the Black Table.

History

In the five millennia of Nuria-Natal’s existence, its influence has waxed and waned across the Southlands. At a high point many, many years ago, Nurian merchants established the outpost, lighthouse, and port of Mhalmet on the White Sea. Nurian sandships sailed out of the desert and onto the sea, establishing trade up and down the coast and with the islands of Shibai, Tethys, and beyond. Time passed, Nuria-Natal retreated inward, and Mhalmet became an independent city-state for a time. Greed triumphed over good as the government and lord mayor met assassins’ knives, and now Mhalmet, the so-called “City of Freedom,” is but a haven for pirates and thieves ruled from the Black Table. Recently, the Pirate Queen Fatima al-Graghn’s sister Nenet has taken a liking to raiding along the Mhalmet Road. The chaos threatens to upend carefully negotiated bribes and agreements between the god-pharaoh’s merchants and the Black Table.

Geography

Mhalmet sits upon the White Sea in a crook formed by the Lotus Road. The ley line forms the western border of the reach of the rulers of Mhalmet, following a tall ridge westward from the sea and south of the city and then turning north, passing near the Shrine to Isis as it crosses the Mhalmet Road and onward to the lost Necropolis of Per-Maraut.

The Mhalmet Road heads south to Sar Shaba and north for 70 miles of relatively easy travel, cooled by the salty ocean winds. The northern portion then turns inland and leaves the view of the White Sea behind, crossing seemingly unending ergs for almost 200 miles until nearing the Lotus Road, stretching south from Per-Maraut. In the shadows of dark stone ridges, the road picks through 120 miles of rough terrain before eventually reaching the sheltered wadi of the God King’s Mirror.

Location of Note: The Dawn Shrine

Standing on a high ridge, on the northernmost leg of the Mhalmet Road, rises the delicate construction to God-Pharaoh Mekamunshepsut, the Dawn Shrine. Dedicated to Isis, the small building faces east and features an open layout. Walls depict Mekamunshepsut as Isis in her role as the goddess of the day and healing, with several statues of her around the facility. The largest looms behind the main altar, featuring Isis with one hand outstretched welcoming the new day while the other hand is draped with an immense bandage of luxurious Nurian cotton. Small bags of verdant plants lie at her feet, representing her ability as a healer. With every sunrise, nearby residents attend a prayer service incorporating several create water castings, using the water generated to help keep everyone healthy.

Shani, the head Priestess, shares her gifts to welcome all visitors and offers some basic healing using natural herbs and a unique plant that only grows in this region of the Southlands. The violet prickly cactus has a tall stem with a bumpy surface, needles, and flowers with curative properties. Physicians in the area employ the needles in a form of acupuncture that relieves pain and draws poison out. The small, deep-purple petals make up a key ingredient in a curative for heat maladies. Shani, along with her two younger priestesses, Ta-hemi and Miane, tend a greenhouse built specifically to produce the cactus and some food.

Sergeant Bah and two Chosen of Horus, Ludim and Murhu, continuously alternate guard shifts to ensure the peace and tranquility of Isis. Between three and five caretakers live onsite, performing maintenance and cooking. All of these devotees come from Mhalmet, proud to provide their services to Isis until they resign. The temple offers small meals and some blessings from Isis free of charge, but anything more requires a donation. A contingent of ten guards keeps a watch on the road to the north, aiding passing travelers obviously in need.

Location of Note: Thief’s Caves of the Fractured Rise

A day’s journey northeast of Mhalmet Road, a long line of rocky hills known as the Fractured Rise, claw their way toward the sky. Amongst these crags, at least one bandit group has hidden their treasure. Their leader, Semet Short-Fingered, a particularly paranoid thief, split his treasure between several different caves and only allowed one or two of his gang to know where the location of a particular haul lies. Unfortunately for him but lucky for scavenging treasure hunters, he has done this often enough to offer a good chance of finding a stash with at least a few silver pieces in most of the caves along the ridge. A treacherous fellow thief tried to cleverly re-bury the treasure in different parts of the cave and make a small treasure map he shared with a few fellow conspirators. After several years of this activity, several maps have been lost in gambling bets, some forgeries were made, and none of the maps ever marked the location of the exact cave, only the location of the treasure within!

Location of Note: Eayan Hawris on the White Sea

In the heyday of Nurian influence on the shores of the White Sea, lighthouses (the “Seaward Eyes of Horus”) appeared along the coast. At the northern edge of Mhalmet’s influence sits the village of Eayan Hawris, a small cluster of stone and mud huts in the shadow of a tall stone structure of fading white-and-red stone.

Too small to present much of a target for the omnipresent land- or sea-based pirates, Eayan Hawris is home to a typical fishing community supplemented by small farms and orchards perched on the cliffs overlooking the sea. The population is invariably mostly natives supplemented by escaped slaves and a retired pirate or two. Similar thorps and villages dot the coasts north and south of Mhalmet. But Eayan Hawris is unique for a small contingent of the Order of Horus, their uniforms concealed, settled in the town’s outskirts, deterring raiding slavers and keeping watch on the road and points south.

Item of Note: Holy Bandages of Beautiful Truth

Drawn from a strip of the enchanted cotton sheet held in the statue’s hand in the Temple of the Dawn, the priests harvest these fabric bandages from the goddess’s likeness five times a year. They gather the bandages after ceremonies on the first day of spring, the longest and shortest days of the year, and at the beginning and end of a great celebration at the end of autumn, reenacting the recovery and resurrection of Osiris. The statue’s massive cloth never grows longer or shorter, nor appears ragged, so her priests consider the miraculous bandages a blessing.

Holy Bandages of Beautiful Truth

wondrous item, rare

A fist-sized bundle of loosely woven, decadently soft, gauze-like cotton, each of these bandages may be applied to a creature as an action, which provokes opportunity attacks. Once applied, the bandage does three things:

  • The creature heals 2d8 + 2 hit points.
  • Any blindness suffered by the character is removed.
  • If used to bind a severed limb to the character’s body, that limb reattaches. If the limb is missing, it causes a new limb to regrow and become usable after 1d12 + 1 days as long as the character has at least 1 hp over that entire period.

If you are suffering from a poison, you can, instead, roll against its effects with advantage. The bandage works twice and is then consumed.

2 thoughts on “From the Deck of a Sandship: Of Mhalmet and the Desert”

  1. Oh yes!! please keep these coming. I am collecting every drop of lore from the Southlands in preparation for that book. I can’t wait.

  2. Charles in Florida

    I do very much like the article, and it has given me some ideas for my homebrew campaign.

    However, I must take minor exception to the sandship picture. The sails are billowed forward, yet the pennants are blowing backward. Magical wind that blows in two directions at once? Seems like that would have been worth mentioning in the article! : )

    Actually, that gives me another idea….

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