In this post I am going to introduce one of the minor factions in the game: The Deadlanders.
The Deadlands is a stretch of muddy barrens with its epicenter originating from the Bone Fortress somewhere in between Wrench and Severim, and stretches out to approximately a hundred miles in radius, effectively cutting off all forms of conventional travel routes from Wrench (and most of Oasis) to Severim. It was created in the dark ages when a weaponized version of the world-ending plague was deployed around the area. While there were many versions of what led to the weapon’s deployment, the general consensus in most oral histories were that it was an act of vengeance against villagers around the area who refused to pay the local bandits tribute.
The plague was released at a time where the atmosphere was filled with mutagens, and as a result, instead of just killing off human life as it was originally intended, the plague instead devoured every living thing be it plant, animal or human alike. And instead of staying airborne and then burning itself out, the plague burrowed deep into the ground and destroyed every last bit of foliage in the region. The effect was so horrific and long lasting that even after three hundred years nothing could grow in it.
Survival in the Deadlands
Surviving in the deadlands is not impossible. There is no food, no clean water (most bodies of water are infected by the plague), and no solid ground on which to build a home upon, but several key species of animals and insects do manage to find a home here. Amongst them are the sazara foxes, the tarrahit waterborne insect, mosquitos, strains of bacterias and microbes that are immune to the plague, as well as the cantih hares that burrows at the edges of the deadlands.
Rumors had it that there’s a colony of large, mutated salamanders who live their entire lives burrowing underneath the deadlands, absorbing bio-organic materials through their slick skins. These lizards, commonly called the bone drakes (for the exposed top-part of their heads), are often sighted by caravaneers foolish enough to brave the harsh terrain just to cut down their travel costs to Severim.
Bandits who were driven out from the Oasis often met their end in the deadlands, but some of them seem to have survived against all odds. They are commonly resourceful, extremely cunning and ruthless – traits crucial to surviving in the deadlands. Calling the inhospitable region their home, they are notoriously untouchable by the Bloodstorm Alliance and the Awakened Archonites. Their usual modus operandi usually involves submerging themselves into the countless muddy sinkholes littered across the landscape, and then bursting out with bone and obsidian daggers coated with powerful neurotoxins and dirty mud to ambush passing caravans. One wound from these daggers are usually enough to cause terrible infected wounds that will almost certainly turn gangrenous if not amputated immediately.
At one point the caravaneers who chose to travel across the deadlands began hiring large numbers of elite escorts from the Bloodstorm Alliance (ironically, even with that the cost of travel is still far cheaper than the sea route through Barnacle), and was met with limited success. Armed with automatic weapons, mounted machine guns, flamethrowers, shock-grenades (small grenades that are dropped into sinkholes which when denoted, will cause a massive hydro-shockwave localized in the hole itself, killing any would-be ambushers in it.
The deadlanders learnt fast however. Instead of lying in wait in sinkholes, they began to utilize more advanced weaponry and coordinated tactics, leading to speculations that their organization is far more united that rumors and common perceptions would have one believed so.
One of the most illustrative example happened to the Caladan Brothers, who lost an entire caravan even when escorted by an entire division of elite bloodstorm mercenaries. Only one mercenary survived to tell the tale, albeit with half a face covered in third degree burns and both legs missing. She literally crawled the entire way to Wrench, before eventually succumbing to deadly infections.
According to her, the caravan was travelling in the late evenings at a steady pace southwards, and entered a shallow valley that forced the caravan vehicles to move in a single file. The caravan master foolishly ignored the escort captain’s recommendations to pitch camp and wait for daylight, and pushed on, hoping to save fuel and supplies. As the caravan entered deep into the valleys, they suddenly came under fire from all directions, all of them firing from camouflaged positions. Within seconds half a dozen of the guards were dead, including the caravan master. Before the guards could bring their flamers to bear, they were hit by pre-sighted mortars firing phosphorus rounds, burning most of them to death and laying down a thick layer of deadly smoke, effectively nullifying the guards’ abilities to locate the enemy and fight back.
The deadlanders then move in, armed with automatic rifles and gas masks, and finished off the survivors with alarming efficiency unheard of for a bandit group.
After a hundred years of living in the deadlands, the deadlanders have developed a culture that is frighteningly spartan and brutal. In the deadlander’s organization, the men far outnumber the women. Their women never venture out from their homes. Thus, it is almost impossible to find an adult female deadlander roaming the lands on her own free will.
That said, no deadlander, women or children alike, are to be trifled with in combat. Every deadlander is taught muasilat when young, which is a martial system combining deadly hand-to-hand combat with intricate, snake-like footwork. In fact, the training is so strict that every deadlander, male or female alike, are to proof their worthiness at the young tender age of 12 in a single combat against a full-grown bone drake. They are given one week to prepare, usually prior to their 12th birthday, and on the day itself they would be thrown into a makeshift arena and have to make do with whatever weapon they can find or improvise. This tests not only their martial capabilities but also their resourcefulness, which is one of the most important attributes in the deadlander society.
When a deadlander male reaches puberty, he is taught basic firearm skills as well as usage of primitive weapons like the bone dagger and the obsidian tipped spear, and unless he shows a high level of competence within a year of training, he will be expelled from the group with both arms tied to the back with wet leather, and hunted by a pair of starved sazara foxes. He will need to survive in the deadlands without provisions of any kind for a week before he is allowed to retake the exams. A second failure will result in immediate execution.
Due to the relatively small numbers of women and at times, inbreeding, defective babies are wrapped in white cloth and thrown into sinkholes as sacrifice to the Aladha, their version of God. However, if the discarded baby were to survive for a full week on its own, the baby will be retrieved and drained of blood upon an altar. The baby’s blood would then be shared amongst the greatest warriors in the organization, as it is believed to impart immunity and uncanny luck to those who consume it.
The deadlanders worship Aladha, which they believed to have brought the plague to the world, and created the deadlands for them. According to their lore Aladha was the creator of mankind and disgusted by mankind’s compassion for the weak, he unleashed a plague to wipe out the unworthy and purge the human gene pool of “defective creations”. He then created the deadlands as a constant reminder of his greatness, and a lesson to all mankind that compassion towards the weak will only lead to the extinction of the human species.
They also believe that the bone drakes are their guardians, bestowed upon them by Aladha to protect them from the infidels. Due to this, killing bone drakes for its meat is a capital sin, punished by impaling the offender upon a stake driven through the anus, up through the body and out the mouth. The carcass would then be offered to wild bone drakes as sacrifice, and a form of apology. The only time a bone drake can be slain by a deadlander is during their muasilat test at the age of 12. Domesticated bone drakes are often used as guard pets, and are often brought along in raids and unleashed upon caravans to terrorize and disrupt enemy formations.
Bone drakes play a significant role in a deadlander’s life. Its front teeth are used to fashion their iconic 8″ curved bone daggers, and its spiky skull often worn over the shoulder or the jaw as decoration during rituals (never in combat though). The drake’s poison glands containing powerful neurotoxin cocktail which doubles as home for millions of bacterias are used to coat their weapons, which could paralyze a full grown adult man within minutes of drawing blood. Its burrowing claws and rib cage are grounded into fine powder and when mixed with coagulated blood from the drake’s liver makes an excellent antiseptic medicine which could be applied directly to wound to clean and stop the bleeding, or consumed in small amounts mixed with alcohol to boost one’s fertility, endurance and strength.
The deadlanders believe in offering sacrifices to Aladha, although these rituals are only done prior to significant events like changing of leadership, discovering an abandoned infant who is still alive after a week, or before the Forchan Grand Tournament that happens once every five years. Their religious codes are tightly integrated into their lives. They begin every meal with prayers of thanks to Aladha, and hold month long fasts every year to demonstrate their worthiness to their god.
They believe that all non-deadlanders are infidels, and that the only true path to heaven is to survive in god’s purgatory first. Therefore they are in general extremely distrustful towards non-deadlanders, and in most cases look down upon them as inferiors.
Fashion & Social Order
Deadlanders usually dress themselves in long robes, with a hood tied over their heads to protect themselves from the ever present mosquitos. Their houses (called Lumpors) are built of mud, and cleverly camouflaged into the landscape that it is virtually impossible to detect until one comes to point-blank range. Most deadlanders stay near the Bone Fortress, which is a series of ruins half buried into mud that is impenetrable for one single reason – it is surrounded by a ring of bone drake infested sinkholes.
When it comes to fashion, deadlanders prefer garments made of dried drake skin, lined with the saraza fox’s yellow fur. These simple garments are usually worn as a robe with a belt made of dried bone drake intestines, or sewn into more comfortable tight-fitting shirts and trousers. The latter is usually worn by warriors, who cake themselves with mud before going into battle as both a ritual and camouflage.
Women on the other hand, who never ventures beyond the doors of their Lumpors after they reach puberty, dress in simple underwear made of bone drake skin (specifically, the softer tail portions). They spend their entire day preparing meals, cleaning weapons, refilling ammunition casings, building and refining their homes as well as educating the young in religious matters. In the deadlander society, there are no marriages or families to speak of. In the deadlander society, women choose their partners, and one woman is allowed to have up to five male partners at a time which they can discard if they sense any weakness in the male partner.
In the deadlander’s religious code, men is forbidden from touching women unless allowed to by the woman. When speaking to women, they employ a highly formal form of their native language, often referring themselves as Padkas, literally translating to “your humble servant”.