“Yellow chlorine pools crusted with sodium chlorate puncture the surface on their meander to Black Marsh. Ivory grass which greys the landscape like a dry tundra. Tiger-striped guars roam here, and have become iconic to the western Eyes. Saltrice is sporadically farmed, but salt from the earth must be raked from the ground to provide irrigation for this staple food, lest the cultivated plants die from acidic flooding. This can be seen by the pyramids of salt that dot the thin, near-pointless roads, too poisonous to be consumed or sold. Argonians are the perfect slave to accomplish this type of plantation, as the Black Marsh trade is adjacent to the South, and a free-running lizard won’t make it far in the chlorine clouds brushed up by winds. An Argonian putrefying in a shallow pool is not uncommon a sight, and keeps the slaves in line.”
-Ioralia Sunifius - Of the Heathen Parts of Tamriel, Volume XIV
The Deshaan Plains is a large salt plain that dominates southeastern Morrowind. It is one of the largest physiographic regions in the province, second only to the ashlands of Vvardenfell. It is bordered by the jungly Fens of Xa’nith to the south, the arid red badlands of the Shipal-shin to the west, and the parched hills and fields of the Resdaiyad (Orethans) to the north, and Indoril territory. To the east it forms the majority of Morrowind’s southern coastline with the Padomaic Ocean. The entire area is under the control the Deshaan Confederacy, known officially as House Dres. Economically, it is known for the vast saltrice paddies that ring the plains, providing a huge export and staple crop for Morrowind.
The Deshaan Plains is a very hostile region, and unforgiving to the ignorant traveler. It is borderline inhospitable to most. The Deshaan is a vast region, with varying geographic characteristics. That being said, it is generally a very barren, pale-yellow/blue/grey, and parched region covered almost entirely by salt. It is very dreary, and often covered in poisonous chlorine fog, rising from the numerous chloride pools and vents that dot the plains. Salt storms are a frequent occurrence and are equally deadly if one does not wear the appropriate protection.
Geographically, there are two distinct subregions of the Deshaan: the Upper Deshaan and the Lower Deshaan. The Upper Deshaan consists of the highland plateaus to the north and west of the region. The lack of surface moisture here means the area is much drier and arid. Salt deposits are calcified, and water must be pumped from below ground in order to sustain the saltrice paddies here. The soil is a sandy, salty dirt, a light dirty yellow in color. The ground is pocked with salt patches where brine pools have dried. The loose, sandy dirt lies in small dunes and hillocks, alternating flat patches and wind-blown drifts. The sinkholes and crevasses hide surprisingly well considering the lack of elevation changes.
The Lower Deshaan forms the lowland coastal salt flats along the eastern frontier of the region, as well as areas bordering the jungly swamp of Xa’nith. Here, moisture is directly at ground level. There are also more chloride and brine pools here than in the upper reaches of the Deshaan. Salt is finer and more granular here than in higher elevations. Both subregions share the same general assets and colour palette, though the marsh is generally greener and the mud flats generally browner.
Where the Lower Deshaan meets Xa’nith, the salt flats transition into a salt marsh, where footing is treacherous. Reedy grasses dominate here as the lands become swampier. The water here is acrid, and prolonged exposure burns the skin. (Further south, the water is fresher, but equally dangerous to drink.) The salt marshes transform into a dense and forbidding jungle as one moves south. From a distance, the salt marshes are covered by a sort of haze; the air above the marshes is humid and filled with ferocious bugs.
To the east, the Lower Deshaan meets the sea, and salt mud meets saltwater. The ground here is also treacherous: uneven, soggy, and prone to mud slides and sinkholes. Deep erosion channels define the higher elevations, while tidal islands and moving sandbars make both traveling and building on the coast very tricky.
Flora and Fauna
The Deshaan is host to a wide range of unique flora and fauna, most of which is not found elsewhere in Morrowind, due to the divergent climate and physiography. In terms of flora, much of the region is sparse, with only the hardiest of plants being able to adapt to the salt fields and chlorine pools. Ivory grasses grow in some of the drier areas of the Deshaan, while closer to chlorine pools, copses of tall, branched succulents grow in small clusters. Saltstrap can be found scattered sparsely along the plains and roads of the Deshaan, offering the little shade that can be found here.
In terms of fauna, the most dominant species in the Deshaan are the Skyrenders, large wasp-like insectoids that make their home in Skyrender mounds found in the Upper Deshaan. They are often domesticated by the Dres for use as flying mounts, and as a means for transport. A Skyrender is also depicted on the sigil of the Deshaan Confederacy. In lower elevations, Zoars (anteater-like mammal) are one of the few creatures that thrive on the chloride pools. Their pelts are highly sought after by Dres Merchants. Coarse Zoarskins are the garment of choice for the semi-nomadic Chap-thil, providing their bodies with adequate protection from the raging saltstorms (finer variants are worn by the upper ranks of House Dres). Feral tiger-striped guar and rabid Skux also roam the countryside, though the Chap-thil have learned to tame them for their own purposes.
Flora is explored more in depth below.
Roads and Settlements
In the Deshaan, much like the Ashlands, roads are virtually pointless, as they quickly get washed over by the blowing salts, or swallowed up by crevasses and pools of oozing chloride. In the Upper Deshaan, transport is primarily done underground, through the various network of canals that form the Salt Washes, which in turn feed into Lake Andaram to the North. In the lower Deshaan, Skyrenders are the preferred mode of transport, soaring high over the poisonous chlorine sumps that choke the land below.
That being said, a rudimentary overland road network does exist, mainly for use by the Chap-thil, and traders foolish enough to traverse the salt plains above ground. The main road in the Deshaan forms a rough ring, following the route of the underground Salt Washes. It connects five of the seven major clansteads of House Dres, including the port facility of Dres Horak, and the trade city of Dres Tyr. The ring road branches out with external connections to the Cities of Almalexia and Narsis, as well as the Thirr River Valley. A seperate road connects Dres Tyr to Necrom. Short extensions also connect the ringroad to the numerous saltrice paddies that dot the Salt Washes. Recently, road connections have also begun to spread southwards into the Fens of Xa’nith, slaver roads that are often used by the raiding parties of House Dres.
Settlement in the Deshaan is limited to the scions of House Dres, in their canton-like fortresses, the semi-nomadic Chap-thil living for long periods outside their clansteads in improvised dwellings of hardened bugshell. In the Upper Deshaan, cantons and settlements are more open due to the (relatively) fresher air. Down in the lower Deshaan, cantons are monolithic and closed off due to the extremely poisonous chlorine fog in the lowlands. The exception of this is the bustling city of Dres Tyr, which is sheltered in a jungled lagoon away from the saltflats.
The Deshaan plains are known, aside from their inhabitants and exports, mainly for their salt. On the surface, salt appears in brine pools. Brine pools and the salt patches from dried-up brine pools dot the landscape and give it its characteristic appearance. Underground, salt appears in a variety of wondrous shapes. Much, but not all of it, is table salt, a valued commodity in its own right. The remaining salt is strange, colorful, or otherwise unusual; some varieties are corrosive, others are poisonous or magical, and yet others are not known at all. The more unusual salts bring good prices as exports, especially to the Telvanni.
Salt is found in large quantities on the surface, but is contaminated with dirt and impurities and is not good for eating. Salt for consumption, magic, or other uses is mined by a variety of methods, including brine evaporation (yielding both salt and fresh water). This technique is used on a small scale in most households.
Argonians are favored for mining underground, since they have no trouble with underground rivers or dampness and are largely immune to the strange poisons and sicknesses that arise from exotic salts. (This said, the sheer quantity of toxins erodes even the strongest slaves eventually.)
The combination of salt and water is the basis of fertility in the Deshaan plains. Water in the Deshaan plains comes from the underground rivers and aquifers. Rare torrential downpours are as dangerous as they are beneficial, bringing the dangers of flooding and landslides, as well as dissolving dangerous salts into a toxic brew.
Water running underground is one of the main origins of the extensive caves, sinkholes, crevasses and other underground spaces that riddle the plains. (The other is Dres salt mining.) These have been worn out of the relatively soft soil and rock by the wear of water. Common features of the cave systems include many stalactites, stalagmites, and weird salt drip formations. Caves or sinkholes open to the air are often full of plants. Despite the hot surface, it is often relatively cool and damp in the caves. Plant roots are commonly seen poking through the roof.
Water being essential to life, the Dres have devoted a considerable chunk of their engineering skills to moving it around. Their waterworks are as impressive as they are essential. Unlike the dwemer, Dres do not make use of steam power. Instead, the Dres use clever devices and slave labor. Of particular importance are the great underground canals called the salt washes, which have been carved out of the natural cave formations and allow movement of both water and goods between cities and to export locations.
The fertility of the Deshaan plains is because of, not despite, the salts. The local plants are highly adapted to the climate and refuse to grow without the salt. Due to the salt, the soil is rich in vital minerals. Wherever water appears, the plains bloom. This naturally occurs near the various underground water sources or the intermittent brine pools, but Dres irrigation has allowed much of the Deshaan plains to flourish as saltrice fields maintained by slaves.
The Dres achieve much of their agriculture using a combination of hardy native plants, irrigation, and salt-tolerant imported plants. Native plants often feature water collection and storage systems and are used as sources of water themselves. Some grow exclusively in the crevasses, and others have extensive root systems. Native plants only occasionally grow outside the Deshaan plains, as they are ill-adapted to the (relatively) cold, wet environments. The Shipal-shin region is one exception, though even there the salt plants are rare.
Some plants are so adapted to the salt that they concentrate salts as defense. These plants are violently poisonous, but useful alchemically. Care must be taken when harvesting them.
A - alchemy plant
S - static plant
Saltrice - imported. Grows in and near saltwater. It grows sparsely in and around brine pools in the plains, but is extensively cultivated by the Dres in plantations. Further south, it grows here and there in the salt marshes and more commonly on the mud flats. (A)
Marshmerrow - imported. Grows in the southern region of the plains, where the salt flats give way to salt marshes and on the mud flats. Rarely seen further north except under cultivation. (A)
Puffgrass - grows in very arid regions, mainly at the bases of sand dunes and under larger saltstrap plants. It is found across the Upper Deshaan anywhere the local conditions are dry enough. (A)
Saltstrap - found across the entire plains and to a lesser extent outside the plains in the immediate vicinity. Grows to full size when located in a dry area with access to underground water. Does not tolerate sitting water or excessive rain. The shade large plants create often shelters other plants and animals. (S)
Untitled plant 1 - a small, cactusy plant, this plant grows in the vicinity of brine pools and former brine pools, found across the plains. Does not grow in the southern marshes or mud flats. (A)
Glasswort - a succulent plant with thick podlike stems and many branches. Grows exclusively in the southern salt marshes. (A)
Tribunal cacti (introduced in trib.exp.) - imported cacti. Grow in dry areas on the northern and northwestern boundaries of the plains. Cultivated in farms in those areas and grown in gardens elsewhere for their flowers. (A)
Saltgrass - a dry, ivory-white grass that grows sparsely here and there, chiefly in the shade of buildings, large dunes, depressions, and other plants. Does not grow in standing water. Found across the entire plains and to a lesser extent also outside the plains in nearby regions. Could be a retexture of existing grass models. (S)
Kreshweed - imported. Grows sparsely on the mud flats, in the north. (A)
Silverstalk - native. Grows in and around brine pools across the Deshaan, but only in bright sunlight. (S)
Spindlewort - native. A bamboo-like plant that grows mainly on the Upper Deshaan. The wind howls through its holes. (S)
Additional concepts for plants are welcome.
- Dres Horak - A canton city with a huge port, House Dres' trading outpost to the rest of Morrowind.