Wastes Main | Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Maps | Credits
The Wastes are full of mysteries waiting to be explored. Mysteries can be as exciting as they are dangerous. And the Wastes are dangerous enough for those just trying to survive.
The Namegivers of the Wastes are not as varied as those of Barsaive Proper. Rather, only Orks, Trolls, Dwarves, and Humans exist in numbers large enough to be counted. The Obsidimen of the Wastes are brothers to all, traveling across the land teaching and recording. In a place where memory only lasts as long as someone exists to remember it, the Obsidimen remember, and record, all.
In the Wastes, there is no time for prejudices between races. Orks, Trolls, Dwarves, and Humans all live and work together, none above the others. The settlements are small and easily moved around. There are some settlements, however, that have not moved in many years, due to the caverns located beneath them. Farming, using ancient kaer techniques, supplies these cities and is exported to other nearby tribes. Many of these settlements are near caves and mountains and the original kaers.
Of the more common races, the Dwarves travel the most. They are responsible for the spread of the tribes and the spread of news between the tribes. The Dwarves of one tribe are more nomadic than others and are exceptional kaer designers. They have helped many tribes become permanent settlements after assisting in the creation of a tunnel system. These Dwarves are hailed throughout the Wastes as heroes.
Perhaps at one time there were T'skrang and Windlings, but the harsh climate and high mortality rate following the Scourge drove them away, never to be heard from again. There are many among the Tribes of the Wastes that believe they no longer exist.
Elves alone remain in the Wastes but have not become of the Wastes. As a community, they despise outsiders and have maintained an independent existence since they emerged from their kaers. They have been changed by their harsh lives, though they refuse to see it themselves. They claim no kinship with those of the Elven Court, and despise Queen Alachia especially for her "solution" to the Scourge. It has been said that they are more angry at being neglected than about the disfigurement of their peers.
There is a high infant mortality rate, primarily due to the black haze above the land and the lack of safe conditions in which to give birth. This subject becomes more important when havens within the Wastes are discussed.
It is obvious that some Disciplines are not as practical as others when considering survival in the Wastes. As time passed, some of these Disciplines fell into disuse and became frowned upon by those of newer generations. For example, there are no known air sailors or sky raiders in the Wastes. There is no need for those with such skills and so it is conveniently disregarded. Children with such obvious talent are encouraged to follow the paths of the Warrior, the Weaponsmith, and Elementalist. Others are considered acceptable, but those are the most common. The Thief has undergone a metamorphosis in the Wastes. Now, he is called the Hunter and is an oft-imitated Discipline.
Beastmasters and Cavalrymen are uncommon, but much sought after. They serve as masters of transportation and in the raising of animals. One Ork by the Name of Lesma was a Beastmaster of consequence. She developed a breed of transport animal called Stalthen, which seems unaffected by the black skies and immune to the mist biters. This beast and others specific to the Wastes will be detailed in the Bestiary.
Other Disciplines that are uncommon but much sought after are Troubadours, Swordmasters, and Illusionists. Artisans of these Disciplines are prized for their ability to temporarily soothe over the wounds of the Scourge and of daily life. Some Illusionists who adventure find it difficult to maintain a good reputation when trying to leave a town or city. It is said that most scurry out disguised and while their hosts sleep. Nevertheless, they are always welcomed when they arrive in a town.
Because magic is affected by the strange circumstances of the air, Elementalists, Wizards, and Nethermancers have become divided. Which brings us to the next subject...
Any use of magic in the Wastes will draw Horrors faster than anywhere else in Barsaive, save Parlainth. Strangely, this is not the only cause of the differences between mages. The black sky alters the form of magic. Because of this, magic is taught in two schools: those who exert extra effort to control the effects of their spells and those who trust in the balance of the world to shape their efforts.
Those who do not exercise restraint find their spells often take on unexpected forms and sometimes injure themselves with some type of feedback. But just as often, their spells are much more powerful than those cast by others of the same ability.
Some tribes only allow those who restrain themselves to practice magic within their settlements. Other tribes discourage any restraint in magic.
Most Elementalists concentrate on Earth spells, though those who study water are equally valued. Nethermancers are valued for the obvious reasons.
It is said that there are few Horrors in the Wastes because there is no one on which to prey. In truth, there are few Horrors because the hierarchy of Horrors does not allow others. I have seen Reavers kill bloatforms that strayed into the Wastes. It is a sight to fear.
While the Reavers seem to be the most powerful, I have heard rumors that there is a controlling consciousness behind them. Reavers have two long bone blades attached to their forearms like scythes, which hang down about a meter from the ground. They are approximately three meters tall with hard carapaces and a bony plate that covers their heads and most of their faces. They have six eyes spaced evenly around their heads so they are never caught by surprise. Most terrifyingly, they can blind those they touch, but only if they touch the flesh. Their blinding ability does not pass through cloth, air, or metal. They are faster than an average Namegiver, with strong legs and thick, ropy muscles.
Reavers always appear in pairs, though they are often followed by Scurriers and Unravellers. The Scurriers are small, six-legged beasts with sharp teeth and three horns. Unravellers appear to be immune to spells, at least those with physical effects. They run on two legs, low to the ground, with their heads stretched out in front of them.
The worst of all, though not the last, are the ones that you do not suspect until it is too late. People who pass out of the Wastes talk of a low lying black mist that devours living things when they enter valleys and other low-lying areas filled with it. These are the Mist Biters. They do not live very long on their own, but as a communal cloud, they find enough to survive. Be careful when the visibility is low, for even a being such as I have trouble recuperating from an attack of these little ones.
The Plague Crawlers are responsible for the mass deaths of many settlements. They seem to spread disease that acts like Dread Iotas. Again, the rumors that the people of the Wastes have died from plagues are actually stories of towns decimated by the bites of just a few Plague Crawlers. The name "crawler" is actually a misnomer. These creatures are approximately one meter long and fly on two pair of mottled black wings like some large, grotesque butterfly. They have six legs; the two at the front have sharp hooks to better grab onto their victims. They earned the name "crawler" from the way they crawl around on their victims.
And finally, the last Horror that seems to obey this "hive mind" consciousness is the Swarm. I have never actually seen this myself, and it may be that the Swarm is only a collection of all these horrible monsters. No one has lived to tell what the Swarm is. Those of you unlucky enough to have seen its aftermath, well, you have my condolences.
Many of the creatures that live in the Wastes exist outside of it in Barsaive as well. The nature of the land and the atmosphere has changed their appearances. Common creatures are molgrims, leech rats, plague lizards, and krillworms. These animals have gained a dark coloring that helps them hide. Whether this is natural or merely a dirty coating from living in the Wastes is anyone's guess.
Most creatures that live in the Wastes are dark in color; some are even capable of camouflage. The majority of mundane animals are reptilian, but not actual reptiles. Individual animals are detailed in the Bestiary.
There are several kinds of plants that only live in the Wastes. One such plant is the rot weed. This plant blooms with a beautiful pale blue flower, but that flower dies after one day and then the plant rots away to the ground. Despite the decay, the dying plant leaves behind a lovely, fresh scent. A hardy tree-like bush grows there called snakebush. The wood of this plant is strong enough to make wonderful bows and spear shafts. It can be charred for writing as well. A low growing, fast spreading shrubbery whose thorns are used for tattooing is called spiderspike.
There are many other distinct plants, but only a few bear edible fruits or leaves. The leaves of the canishade are commonly used for healing teas. When mixed with the flower petals of a basketbloom, this tea causes drowsiness followed by a sleep that mimics death. The berries of most bushes are poisonous, but the distinct black berries of the gour bush -- a short bush with thick branches and short, dark green leaves -- help maintain consciousness, though eating too many at once can cause an addiction.
Most of the edible fruits and vegetables grow just under the top layer of soil. The spiky pears and double ring fruits are considered delicacies.
Those born in the Wastes are born into a tradition of personal survival and seem to have an innate knowledge of the means to survive the particular hazards of their home. The mouth and nose must be covered. Water must be kept clean or purified. Wind-proof shelter must always be a priority in case a storm arises. Children are raised learning these things.
Special eye coverings have been designed by glass-smiths. They are transparent and secured to the head with leather masks that these lenses slip into. These are not common and are very expensive.
Money has little meaning unless you are in a city or town near the border of the Wastes. Most items are bartered for, however, most people are quite accommodating if you have nothing to offer in return but services.
Goods that travel between tribes are often carried in caravans escorted by warriors to ensure that they arrive safely and on schedule. Scouts also find work in caravans and are typically sent ahead to warn of trouble or announce the impending arrival of a caravan.
When a Namegiver dies, nothing is wasted. Their belongings are distributed throughout his or her family, or if none exists, among his friends and the community. The body is burned on a pyre outside of the settlement and for three days, everyone wears white breathing cloths. If adventurers come upon someone who has been killed in the wild, it is considered good form to build a pyre to burn the body and keep whatever belongings remain.
Constantly opposing death is life, and life seems to never fail in its quest to continue. Children are born constantly in the Wastes, unfortunately, most died before their first birth day. Those that survive are typically adepts, though some never discover their abilities or discover them late in life.
The storms that sap the energy of the people they engulf are often given credit for the high infant mortality rate. The people of the Wastes however do not seem to look for a place to lay blame. The Naming ritual occurs moments after the child is born. If no one is alive to name the child, the midwife often embraces that duty, often giving the child the Name of one of his or her parents or ancestors.
Family ancestry is the only history that the people of the Wastes are consistent in recording. Once a child reaches maturity, they are covered from hand to shoulder with a long tattoo. It begins on the back of the hand with the symbol of the tribe they were born into, followed by their personal symbol, their parents' symbols, and so on back to the name of their original ancestor tribe.
The people of the Wastes speak a dialect of Dwarven called Wasteland. It is similar enough that outsiders are able to communicate using common Dwarven. Each of the nine original tribes that survived the exodus from the kaers also has its own language, which has become nearly impossible for someone unfamiliar with it to understand without completely learning it.
Concerning the land of the Wastes, it is brown and barren. Barren may not be the best word for it, but only very hard plants seem to grow, and they grow year-round. Everyone from the oldest man to the youngest child knows the only sure way not to become lost is to travel in the four cardinal directions, maintaining straight lines. There are a few areas, called pristine land, that are out of place here. They look just like the land of Barsaive. These areas, though small, inspire fear in the residents of the Wastes. Those who stay for great lengths of time report feeling ill and homesick. These places are good for collecting clean water and are considered holy. Many women seek them out during pregnancy and for birth. It is said that Horrors cannot come near these places, but I have heard that the Reavers will wait for days for Namegivers to come out.
Worship of the Passions is almost completely ignored in the life of Namegivers in the Wastes. There are, of course, shrines to the memory of the Passions, especially Jaspree. And those who follow the Passions, especially Jaspree, have slowly gone mad over the years. The holy places that thrive in the Wastes often contain offerings to the Passions. In fact, some have reports the answers to their prayers to Jaspree and Garlen while in these places, sometimes with visions of the Passions and actual appearances.
There were, before and during the Scourge, questors of all the Passions. Those who followed the so-called Mad Passions, which are called Fallen Passions here, suffered more madness and seemed to lose their minds much faster. On rare occasions, individuals are still called by these Passions, but they are usually exiled to the bare Wastes. There are rumors that, somewhere, there is a community of Mad questors.
In general, the Passions are ignored because they have ceased to exist in the daily lives of those in the Wastes. Do not take this to mean these people have lost hope. They fully expect the Wastes can be restored to its pre-Scourge glory.
In the Wastes, death is more than a fact of life. While I have already discussed burial rituals, there is more to death than disposal of the body and a legacy. Adepts have a strange tendency to linger after death, especially when they die alone and unburied in the Wastes.
These spirits are drawn to other adepts and often attach themselves to one particular Namegiver. While they are willing to act as a Ghost Master, they always want others to learn the Discipline they followed in life. If the Namegiver they choose is not of their Discipline, they constantly encourage him to change to or learn their Discipline. They also try to convince the adept's companions to change.
There are other spirits in the Wastes, some more friendly, like myself, others less. Some are straining to return to life, though I do not know how they might achieve this. I, myself, am content in this state, with my servants to assist me. I only wish my relatives were still aware of me.
This myth was explained to me by a young human illusionist, and I am presenting it here to the letter.
This legend was created to keep strangers from our lands. While there have been Namegivers who have been corrupted into serving the Monarch, they were slain long ago by our ancestors. Our tribes are peaceful enough, having been born from the same Fathers and the same cauldron of a womb you call the Wastes. From nine original kaers were born all the tribes of the Wastes, or Rumana as we call it, and our ancestry is meticulously recorded on the Rune Walls and on our very skin. Each person is accounted for, and there are no minions of the Monarch among the Namegivers that walk the land.
There are nine main tribes in the Wastes. These tribes were born from the nine kaers that survived the Scourge. Each one maintained a form of Dwarven, but, lacking the Book of Tomorrow, their own dialect formed. Also, over the years, each tribe formed their own independent language based on mutilated words from the many base languages and hand and body gestures.
The first tribe is called Adena. This was the first kaer to open after the Scourge, opening in fact, though they don't know it, before Throal. This tribe is primarily Orks and Humans. Most of the Mist Walkers are direct decendants of this tribe. The Mist Walkers feel it is their duty to return the Wastes to its pre-Scourge glory.
The second is eL'mais and is primarily composed of Humans. The third is Kitran and is mostly Trolls. The fourth is Wriarru and is composed of Dwarves and Humans. The fifth is Stozen and was centered around the only Liferock in the Wastes with both Orks and Trolls living in the kaer. The sixth is Jenhoa and is the source of the only Elves in the Wastes. There is not much communication with this tribe. The seventh is Ruem and is known as the Nomad tribe. The Dwarves from this tribe are the ones that are credited with spreading "civilization" throughout the Wastes. The eighth is Utroke and is primarily Trolls. And the final tribe, the last to emerge from the kaers, is Dryna and is mostly Human and Trolls.
The original distribution of races in the tribes does not necessarily reflect the composition of the tribes today. Many tribes openly adopt Namegivers of other races. Some only grant the protection of the family after an extraordinary deed. Those who change tribes or are without one when they come of age are often adopted into a specific family so that their tattoos reflect their parents not as the ones who gave birth, but the ones to whom they belong as kin. Over all, the races are more equally mixed now than before, though Humans seem to be the most prolific.
Each settlement generally has a Ritual Master. The Ritual Master is considered a holy person and their bodies and spirits are inviolate. Parents sometimes give children who have special gifts to the Ritual Master of their settlement so that they can be raised in the ancient traditions and trained from a young age in their duties. It is almost unheard of for a settlement or town not to have a Ritual Master. Disputes of a spiritual nature are often taken to the Ritual Master since the Passions are so disregarded.
Life in the deep Wastes is different than anywhere else. Things are taken to strange extremes. There are rumors of a brutal tournament, but I have been unable to find many details about it as it seems the survivors are not allowed to speak of it. The tribes are more divided in the deep Wastes than anywhere else. There are some places where the bloodlines remain pure, where those of one tribe do not mingle with any other tribe save for outcasts, but even they are not allowed to bear children. Often, these couples become the foster parents of orphans or teachers when children are old enough to become apprentices.
I must explain that this information is not available outside the Wastes. My servants are not able to travel that far and it appears that those of the Wastes refused to believe that there is a softer, happier life outside. In fact, they seem to believe they are the only survivors of the Scourge and I am content to let them continue to do so. For those of you who want to know who I am, let me assure you that you will meet me when I am needed and no sooner. May you be blessed and be safe.
"Bluetorch", date not provided