The Wastes are a vast and varied area that in another age would simply have been called Vernlarum. But then is not now. Vernlarum, or at least its remnants, have mostly survived on the backs of Shambles and in the Mountains of Sorrow.
There are still changes in climate as one might expect over hundreds of miles of expanse, but the movements of the Shambles have destroyed most ecosystems on the ground. With Vernlarum's ecosystem destroyed, what remains are various grasslands and savannas that border on deserts. Almost no forests remain. The tree life that remains is rugged and quickly growing, as copses of trees inevitably get trampled by a Shamble. Wildlife has adapted or died. There are few large herds of grazing animals left, though some still exist in the area Gaena wanders with its vast grassy plains. Carrion eaters and hearty desert animals are the most prolific.
Life for sentient races in the Wastes is a constant struggle and bears little resemblance to life on a Shamble. The one positive is that a Shamble's approach is never a surprise, and a small village of moveable huts can leave the Shamble's path before all of their belongings are destroyed.
People of the Wastes
The people of the Wastes live a nomadic life out of necessity. Any permanent structures are at risk of being trod upon, so people live their lives in various mobile structures that can be moved with a day or two of notice. People who lead these nomadic lives might once have resented their place in the world, but it is who they are now. They live their lives and deal with their struggles under the feet of Shambles. It is the nature of life to accept difficult circumstances as normal—a blacksmith might complain about a ruined piece of iron, but there is nothing he can do except melt it down and start again.
Nomads' lives aren't quite as meager as one might expect. A shamble rarely returns to the same spot in less than a year. A tribe can move to where a Shamble has recently been, establish their village, plant what seeds they've saved and stored, then reap their harvest before they expect a return. While this may not be considered ideal by some, it is enough to provide a small number of people with food. Most nomadic tribes also have small flocks of herd animals—goats and sheep are rugged and popular. Large herd animals are seen in the more bountiful areas. But the people of the Wastes hunt much more than one would expect of the herd animals to use in trading with the people on the Shambles.
Some basic tradesmen exist amongst the nomads. Blacksmiths have forges that can be pulled by oxen when necessary, and tanners, similarly, can move with a minimum of fuss. A constant preparedness to move necessarily inhibits the amount of work these crafters can do at a time, and there are few true masters in the Wastes. In fact, many craftsmen are journeymen who left the Shambles to start a life of their own away from their former masters for whatever reason.
The people of the Wastes have few diplomatic interactions with the citizens of the Shambles except when trading with the Shamble whose territory they occupy. Even then, they only interact sparingly and on matters of trade. They seek tools and equipment they can craft and trade whatever excess they have.
Generally, the people of the Wastes have a mindset that is a pale reflection of the Shamble that dominates their land. The people who live beneath Andath are calm and prone to trade, while those who live beneath Kytark are more hostile and independent.
Some Acolytes say this is further evidence of the Shambles' personalities and their impacts. Others say it is simply that the population of nomads is almost entirely related to the people of a particular Shamble and that regional difference are to blame. Most pay not attention to these matters.
Very few nomadic people are receptive, on any level, to magic users of any kind. They view magic use as the cause of all of their troubles, and many a careless cleric, hoping to heal someone, has been ripped apart by an angry mob. Even possession of a tome of indecipherable script is cause enough to have some stoned. Caution and care is advised to magic-users who travel the Wastes.
Nature magic users are an exception, but only barely. Anyone who can use her magic to cause a flower to bloom, cause grass to grow, or calm a disturbed animal is allowed to use magic, but they are watched with such great suspicion, that many still conceal their abilities and only use magic in secret.
Raiders are those groups of nomads who eschew raising livestock and scurrying after Shambles to plant tiny crops. Raiders, as their name implies, subsist on raiding those who do engage in such behaviors, though nomads aren't the preferred target of raiders. Raiders far prefer to assault the cities on Shambles. The Shambles are well defended, but it is difficult to completely seal such a broad stretch as 12 square miles. Raiders find the weak points of a Shambles defenses, assault, take what they can, and flee.
Raiders take anything they perceive as having value, but their primary target is the druidic grove. On different Shambles the druids are defended to varying degrees. But no matter how well defended the druids are, raiders seek them. While raiders have no interest in tending the soil for food, they know druids can be convinced to use their magic to make fruit and vegetables quickly rise from the ground. Druids can tame wild beasts, and they can heal the wounded.
Some raiders treat their captive druid with such respect that the druids become valued members of the raiding tribe. Other groups of raiders treat their druids as slaves to be used up and then discarded.
Iss'tan is an elven raider. He is a former Brother on Gaena, who was kicked out after an incident with a Duenna left her scarred and him with no honor. He views the situation as her fault, and has gathered sympathizers to him. Iss'tan leads a small, but growing band of raiders in Gaena's territory. He resents the rule of the Elders, and seeks to overthrow them. Those who follow him have a fervent faith in him to lead them to his goals. His insight into the defense of Gaena gives them hope in success.
Village of Cant
The village of Cant is a small nomadic village in Andath's territory. Word has started to spread amongst magic-users that Cant might be receptive to magic-users. Not much more is known, and the proposition of finding a village of nomads in a 3,000 square mile area is hard enough, and finding such a village in the Wastes and then approaching someone about magic use is risky enough to be considered crazy.
Those adventurous enough to seek out Cant and ask the proper questions with the proper subtlety might find a village of compatriots who will guide magic use and deliver insight into life with magic in hiding. Or perhaps the person will find a trap used by some of the more radically anti-magic people of the Wastes who are taking on a mission to rid the world of magic-users whenever they can. Or perhaps the Empire started the rumor about Cant, hoping to eradicate magic-users who weren't coming to them.
Ruins of Zerok
In the vicinity of Mandith, there are vast ruins of the ancient city of Zerok. Many speculate about why Mandith has not ground the largest remaining ruins to dust, but people know simply that he hasn't. Other than a large swath of destruction down the middle of the city, much of it still stands.
The Ruins of Zerok have been raided and explored by adventurers numerous times, but there are catacombs and dungeons beneath the city that will never be fully explored. Maps can be purchased at any trade district on any Shamble, though one never knows the veracity of the piece until one is beneath Zerok.
Many have discussed the possibility of settling Zerok and reclaiming it, but those who try disappear. Most say the city is haunted by the souls and bodies of those who died during the Shambling, and refuse to venture anywhere near the tall spires and empty streets. Others say that kind of thinking is foolish. Still others say the city may well be haunted, but the buildings and depths below the city are filled with artifacts from a bygone era and would be worth a fortune to the right buyer, which makes the risk worth it.
Rorora is a young nomad woman who waits an hour outside of Zerok. Her fiancé, Kivin, promised her he would recover a token of his esteem for her from Zerok. He made the promise in a brash moment brought about by drink, but he was determined to go through with it. Rorora tried to release him from his promise repeatedly, but she was unsuccessful, and now she waits for him to return. Each passing day she has less hope, and she will soon leave, her hear heavy with mourning and the question of whether Kivin is still alive. She would be grateful to any adventurers who would go find Kivin, dead or alive, and return him to her.