Dust and Echos
In the heart of the Burning Sands, mortal settlements are few and far-between.
The fog-swallowed sprawl of the Caldarae can be counted among those little known places. From the bird's eye view an observer might liken the craters that make up the Caldarae to a blasted mockery of Luna's image. The citizens appeared as ants moving through the narrow trench streets between them.
Disavowed slaves wandering the sands discovered it, and having found water never had the will to leave. Rain comes nightly, with driving force then bursting at daybreak. This natural phenomenon is both the salvation and the yoke of Caldaraesi citizenship. Moments before the dawn, children often wake to climb to the edge of the crater they've spent their entire life within, place their hands and feet in the narrow grassline that rims it, and gaze out upon the distant ocean as the sun crests. Soon the water pooling in the streets begins to steam again and the stifling mist consumes the view.
The evaporating ground water dredges up minerals from beneath the earth, infusing them with contaminants drawn in overnight upon the southern breeze. Over the first few hours of the day, the solvent will thicken and crystallize onto the ground into a scarlet sheet of Burning Glass. This is the industry of the Caldarae, and soon the peasantry emerge from their huts in great numbers with staff and basket in hand. Cracking the ice and packaging it carefully away, they will either trade it to The Merchant Exchange House for essential goods, or else save what they can to sell it themselves.
The majority of the Aristocracy of the Caldarae live in artificially maintained suburbs in the in between environs. The finer suburbs typically take the form of great public gardens. Visitation in these areas is open to all who can afford the time to venture out of the city center, but competition for residence is fierce enough that even some dragon-blooded are still awaiting their opportunity. Expansion and noble induction into the suburbs is not taken lightly, as water is manually diverted by servants and every drop taken from the night's rain reduces the Burning Glass yield.
Beyond Burning Glass, there is opportunity in the region for discoverers and scavengers. The remains of first-age settlements sit dormant beneath the desert waves. The powerful winds radiating from the southern pole make exploratory excavation difficult, but they are also known to occasionally shift the sands to dredge up artifacts, or even reveal lost ruins. For this reason, scavengers frequent the Caldarae, and several suburban homes are claimed in perpetuity by Archeologists known to have undertaken the Ritual of Subservience.
The Caldarae are ruled by an infamous figure. Graveswimmer's own skin hangs off his flesh like a loose garment, barely managing to conceal the scarred flesh beneath. Local lore holds that he began his reign three years after his death at the head of a peasant uprising. His flesh was immolated by a burning glass explosion, and his bones were carried away by his would-be revolutionaries. Over the following month, dark rumours or foul pacts with forgotten gods swirled. Thereafter, he first appeared at a protest at the community public house. He cut down the existing governor mid speech while those around them were frozen with shock, and divulged his functional immortality. His usurpation was not contested, though in recent years his fitness to rule has been drawn into question due to the township's mounting debt to outside interests.