Flintlocks & Fireballs
The Barrier Wastes
The Barrier Wastes
Many places in the Empire are often descibed in terms of large areas. No-one who’s had anything to do with the barrier wastes would do so. The wastes are staggeringly huge, roughly the height of the entire Empire from northernmost Mocte to frozen Praxia, and they form a band across the entire continent. They’re big.
The other thing they are is hostile. Not because of predators (at least, not living ones), but because the climate is unlivable. Not ‘difficult’, not ‘inhospitable’, simply unlivable. The nice bits, nearer the equator, are a completely barren desert. Further out are salt flats, as arid as the desert, but with only a thin crust atop thick cloying mud – a person can (usually) walk on the crust, but wagons and animals will quickly become hopelessly bogged down.
These factors explain why the existance of habitable lands to the north are a recent discovery (at least, as anything more than myths), and make it even more impressive that the Empire has constructed a railroad across the world – arguably beating the Great Library of Arakesh as the greatest human accomplishment. The work was incalculably expensive, both in terms of capital and in the lives of convict labourers. Every step of the way, huge wooden pylons had to be sunk into the ground in order to make a foundation for the rails, making the construction rather similar to building a gigantic bridge.
It was as the railworks approached the equator that they began to encounter the undead who came to be known as saltwraiths – walking corpses whose merest touch would dessicate a person in seconds. The saltwraiths tried repeatedly to halt the construction of the railroad, attacking the workings as often as the labourers. The closer the workers came to the equator, the more they encountered although, unusually for areas plagued by the undead, only ever that one type. Saltwraiths show many behaviours in common with those forms of mindless undead (most commonly skeletons and zombies) that are directed by a powerful necromancer; namely an utter lack of initiative and an inability to adapt – although they are obviously hostile to the railroad, in some areas they can be kept away from it by nothing more than a token four foot high fence, clear evidence of them trying to obey a rigid command without any reason on their part.
The existence of saltwraiths isn’t directly a major problem for the Empire, but the sheer amount of them is cause for great concern – the most powerful known necromancers can control a few handfulls of mindless dead under experimental conditions, and even the ancient lords of Praxia have only a few thousand troops, and are distracted fighting each other. Whatever controls the Saltwraiths seems to be a single entity or group (there are no records of saltwraiths fighting), and they have enough minions to put pressure on the hundreds of miles of railroad simultaniously. The only good news is that, so far at least, whatever’s controlling the wraiths seems to be distracted from it’s attack on the railroad.