Mars’ Oasis is a large settlement of 50,000 people in the Shacklack Desert. The city is built around two oases, a large one full of water, and another minute oasis full of a magical liquid called dythalid. When objects are immersed in dythalid for an entire month they acquire magical properties, while the dythalid is consumed. Metals that go through this process become dythalidium and have the same properties as dragonsteel. Plant material that goes through the process becomes dythalidare and has the same properties as ironwood, but can still be consumed for 1d8+3 healing for each serving eaten. Minerals that go through the process become dythalidem, a crystal that radiates blue light as well as enough heat to protect against cold temperatures as low as 0˚ F. Other liquids that go through the process become dythalidos, a liquid that explodes under pressure or when the smallest spark touches it. Dead animal products that go through the process become dythalidon, a virtually weightless substance that still provides ample sustenance if consumed.
Naturally, the liquid is unbelievably valuable. An equal amount by weight is needed to change an object into a dythalid substance. Dythalid is sold by the government of Mars’ Oasis for 1,600 GP an ounce to citizens of the desert. It is sold outside of the city for more, but this is illegal and carries a very severe punishment that is kept in vague secrecy. Civilians are terrified of this punishment but the fugitives who sell dythalid to outsiders think the worst that can happen to them is starvation in a prison cell.
Dythalidium is used by the nobles of the city, but is too expensive to give to the soldiers who could easily desert and sell their armor and weaponry for a fortune. Select super soldiers, called the Dythalidee, are chosen to be guards of the Dythalid Oasis from birth. They are always extremely exceptional in every aspect, resistant to mental corruption, have psionic abilities, dythaldium weapons, dythalidare armor, and know all the secrets of dythalid. No Dythalidee has ever fallen in combat.
The city needs food to survive. A little grain does grow around the oasis, but the people need water to drink as well as for irrigating crops. There isn’t enough water for livestock and people to drink, so few beasts are kept at Mars’ Oasis. A special fruit bearing cactus known as sithica grows throughout the whole Shacklack desert. It is poisonous in its normal form, but if soaked in dythalid one of the fruits can support someone for a week. The sithica fruit is the only known substance that does not consume the dythalid in its incubation period. These fruits are the staple crop of Mars’ Oasis.
The government of Mars’ Oasis is based around a caste system. The lowest caste is slaves, next servants and laborers, moving up to merchants, craftsmen, artisans, and specialists, then nobles and other people from rich or powerful families, the final caste is the royal family who has control over the Dythalid Pool. Taxes go through the castes. King Mero III taxes the nobles, the nobles tax the merchants, the employers tax the servants, and the owners take everything they can from the slaves. King Mero decides where the money goes, usually into the army.
Mars’ Oasis needs a good army. It has a constant struggle with the desert environment as well as the other inhabitants of the desert. Bavastatner, the oldest of the blue dragons, lived in Shacklack and his progeny are one of the biggest problems for the people at the oasis. A dragon slayer’s guild has come into existence to deal with the problem. They provide free weapons to the public whenever the city is under attack and King Mero III himself is an accomplished member of the guild. Brass dragons also help against their worst enemies, but only when required.
An enormous formian hive has been set up in the desert. The hive has 25 queens and almost 10,000 workers in it. These outsiders are seeking to enslave the other humanoid species of the desert. To counter the ant encroachment Mar’s Oasis has welcomed a group of Dionysus missionaries. The chaotic clerics are able to keep the lawful formians away from the city proper whenever they decide to attack.
Previously, undead were an even bigger problem than the blue dragons. In the east of the desert a powerful lich lived in an enormous stone monolith surrounded by legions of undead. The people of Mars’ Oasis, never knowing the lich’s true name, called it the Bane. The Bane sent huge armies of undead to attack the city every few years. The Bane didn’t seem to have any particular goal beyond getting more corpses to make more undead to attack the city to make corpses. It may have wanted control of the Dythalid Pool, but the pattern of the attacks were never aimed at that area or any specific area of the city. Recently the Bane was defeated by the exiled members of the Alliance. King Mero III planned to reward them, but ordered them to leave the city when he discovered that the exiles welcomed an undead in their midst.
Prior to the defeat of the Bane, the mages and clerics of Mars’ Oasis had been thinking of different tactics for driving the undead off for centuries. The most basic tactic is using lots and lots of clerics to turn and destroy the undead. The most effective tactic the mages have created so far is the rot reaver. It is a monster that eats and controls undead. It is a little on the black side of magic, but it was seen as necessary to fight the thousands of undead that attacked the city. With the defeat of the Bane, the rot reaver project has supposedly been abandoned.
Other dangers that threaten the city include lamias, manticores, dragonnes, basilisks, sphinxes, hyenas, giant insects, braxats, dune stalkers, sun giants, asabis, brown dragons, stingers, harssafs, witchknives, and all different kinds of lizards. These creatures never attack in large groups and are usually just one rogue monster that has got the suicidal idea that it can attack an extremely militaristic civilization on its own and survive.
Mars’ Oasis’s army has 3,500 people on active duty patrolling the city, making weapons and armor, and out in the desert killing any monsters they can find. The men are all able to turn undead due to their clerical or paladin training. They all wear at least breastplate armor and carry masterwork bows and weapons. All of them are trained for killing undead and desert monsters. Their other equipment includes a bead of dryness to store water, cold weapons, potions of healing, holy water, and an oil of gentle repose to be applied immediately upon death to prevent being turned into a zombie or other undead monster.
The name of the city, Mars’ Oasis, comes half from the oasis and the other half from Mars, the Roman version of Ares. In 700 BCE he led a group of Roman soldiers to the dark side of the world and then back around. They fought many orcs, goblins, monsters, and demons on their journey. Ares gave the Romans peace at the end of the journey in his Oasis. Out of the fires of the desert a lake arose with many desert fruits for the legionnaires and their wives. The indigenous human population of the desert sprung from those Romans and their nymph wives.
When the Alliance thought they would lose the Second Alliance War they sought the aid of Mars’ Oasis. The city’s unique experience in fighting undead and dragons would be excellent if used against the dragovinians. The Alliance removed the three primary threats to Mars’ Oasis to free them up to join the war against Xoria. King Mero mobilized his army, but the war ended before they joined in battle. Mero still feels he owes the people of Eastern Cimmeria something, so he has opened his city up to refugees. With Mars’ Oasis finally secure, Mero has many plans to expand the city’s influence in the desert and beyond. Additional manpower is always useful.