Although many oases exist within the Ozark Desert, few are as well visited as the Sapphire Grove. It is named not for the clear, deep pool which provides a seemingly limitless supply of valuable water, but instead for the brilliant blue flowers which bloom among the trees. It is said that the flowers form a trail which can be followed under the light of a full moon to a long-lost temple of some forgotten sun god, but few who try to follow the flowers seldom return.
Although it is situated far from the major trade-routes, the Sapphire Grove has a reasonably large, semi-permanent population. Even though many of the desert-folk here return to their homes with great frequency, there is a large enough contingent of merchants, travellers and explorers from other regions of the world that a small city has grown over the centuries, catering to many different types of cuisine and religious cultures.
Outside of the desert-folk holds, the Sapphire Grove is believed to be the best place in Omnis to find high-quality artisanal goods; whether it be carved wood from the Starspire Forest (well over a month’s travel away) or illuminated manuscripts from Shearmouth at the other end of the continent, it can likely be found in the Grove. Rumours persist of a merchant tucked away in the wide, wind-swept streets who will sell whatever you are looking for at that exact moment or a botanist who has managed to cultivate a potion from the blue flowers which will render you as transparent as moonlight.
Of course, such a cosmopolitan haven attracts an underbelly and the local thieves, known to all as the Blue Thorns, make themselves known regularly by raiding merchant caravans (although they would never sell goods back to the merchant from which they were stolen, and many merchants in possession of such things will happily return them to their original owner) and smuggling contraband in and out of the trade-city. Whilst technically illegal under the town’s laws, it is rare to find the merchant who is not willing to sell goods procured from the Thorns, hence the local custom of pricking ones fingers on the thorns of the local flora to ensure your caravan is not attacked as it leaves the Grove. It has become tradition among travelling merchants to prepare excess goods to surrender as a tithe to the Thorns.
Due to the peculiar relationship between thieves and merchants (where each group respects the other) and in particular because of the Grove’s position in a secluded part of the Ozark Desert, there is little need for a standing judicial body. It is commonly accepted that the Thorns police the streets and punish their own, or outsiders, when the law is broken in so egregious a manner as to be to the detriment of the city. For the most part this system works, but there are those who arrive in the city eager to bring law to this uniquely structured place.
Whilst most efforts to this end fail, there has been some progress made recently in stoking the fires of resentment as refugees from Nyanis across the Widow’s Sea seeking work have joined many merchant caravans as guards or hangers-on. It is becoming more and more common to see groups of a shared cultural background residing close to each other as demagogues drawn from all corners of Omnis seek to impose their vision of society on what they perceive as the perfect melting-pot to form a small desert-state of their own.
Leo Camarr is the leader of the Blue Thorns. A man of average appearance, his mind is his greatest asset and he has long kept the peace in the Sapphire Grove. Although his willingness to join with the raids conducted on his command has waned of late, he is well-loved by his people and respected by the few merchants who know his true position within the city for his sense of fairness.
Loran ‘Firetongue’ Bramblejump is a demagogue who recently entered the city and has already made great strides in her quest for power. Reacting to the perceived slights of the taller races, Loran has consolidated her powerbase among the small-folk and has been pushing for a formal division of the city between the so-called Skywatchers (with their heads lost in the clouds) and the hard-working people of the ground.
Braelor Sandhammer is the permanent emissary from Mordain’s Vigil. A typical member of the desert-folk, he uses his years of wisdom to settle trade disputes and it is the rare merchant who doesn’t know Braelor on sight. What few know is that he feeds reports on the city’s political state to his king in Mordain’s Vigil and is waiting for the right moment to begin the long process of destabilising the Grove and removing the Blue Thorns from the desert.
Syndrios Lunalim came from the Starspire Forest centuries ago to study the blue flowers of the Sapphire Grove and never left. Their botanical knowledge has helped many travellers on their journey through the Grove and they are always happy to offer advice when it is asked for. Word on the street is that they have managed to follow the flower road and returned, but they will not talk about this when pressed.
She Who Shines came from the Drowned Lands of the Shifting Sea and settled on the outskirts of the Sapphire Grove. A hunter by profession and a scholar by nature, she sees it as her job to catalogue all the fauna she can find in the sands around the Grove and study them for the betterment of all who live there.
There is dissension among the Blue Thorns and Leo Camarr is looking for external agents to root out the troublemakers.
Loran Bramblejump was attacked on the street recently and is looking for bodyguards to attend a meeting with other powerful members of the Grove’s community with her. She will work with Skywatchers but prefers people of a similar size to herself.
Braelor has gone missing and several of the merchants who know him are concerned. They are offering a sizeable reward to anyone who can find him.
Syndrios has been seen sleepwalking recently, their clothes in disarray and odd injuries covering their body. Concerned parties will pay for any information about what the botanist gets up to whilst asleep.
She Who Shines wants adventurers to help her explore a ruin recently unearthed by the shifting sands as she believes a rare breed of sandcat to live within its depths.