Communication with Khemet was lost 1,000 years ago when the magical colleges succeeded in discovering the secret of immortality at the cost of transforming all the inhabitants into undead. The university city of Qandir was at the centre of these explorations and when the cataclysm struck it squeezed the location out of the material realm, much in the same way that Pratchet’s Djelebeybi was snapped 90o to reality. Qandir has been lost in space and time since then, dipping in and out of realities.
The former kingdom of Khemet has been one of the favourite destinations for suicidal treasure hunters for centuries. The ruined and desolate cities that lie moaning in the desert wind house riches and surprises. The dead cling to their secrets, and in Khemet the dead are active in preserving their privacy.
Everyone had assumed that this situation was permanent and that Khemet in general and the city of Qandir in particular were lost forever. Travellers and adventurers told stories of seeing mirages in the desert that they claimed were Qandir. Still others claimed that they found the path to it in dreams. The tale-spinners of Aqhran, a culture famous for its love of elaborate stories, repeat the claims that Qandir was displaced and can now be found in the deserts and/or jungles to the deep south at particular times when the stars are right. Professors at the Esoteric Order of the Blue Lotus paid good money to hear these rumours, and financed expeditions to verify them.
Some 13 years ago these funded expeditions and researches seemed at last to have paid dividends. Reliable and corroborating reports told of the rediscovery of Qandir, though the exact location was not always the same place. Not all expeditions returned, but many did, bearing tales of a city deserted of life, but teaming with activity. Strange forces unleashed unpredictable events, often with lethal effects. But some adventurers returned, possibly maimed and certainly in smaller parties than when they departed, with treasures that the Order greedily seized. Adventurers to Qandir became known as Stalkers, and the general area of Khemet and the specific environs of Qandir became known as ‘the Zone’ where unpredictable magical forces had been unleashed.
Using their influence at court, the Esoteric Order of the Blue Lotus had laws passed to ensure their monopoly of this trade in magical artefacts. An entire economy has developed around the Zone in the trade of items obtained from the Zone by Stalkers. The only legal buyer of artefacts is the Esoteric Order of the Blue Lotus, but a large black market has also evolved. Stalkers seek to gain the best price of artefacts while avoiding the agents of the Order who enforce strict laws against illicit trade in Khemetari cursed objects. In order to track down any illegal trade the Order hires agents to enforce the laws. These investigators are typically recruited from the various fighters’ guilds and thieves’ gangs: an ironic partnership since these same orders and gangs are also the main suppliers to the buyers of the Hidden Quarter comprising the major ‘illegal’ market, connecting rich magicians that wish to keep their research hidden from the Order that they publically support. The Cult of the Black Mother is particularly interested in obtaining such artefacts, and is generous (but also not above lethally silencing indiscrete suppliers) in its transactions.
Qandir appears now to be more often than not at a certain location in southern Khemet, though this is not reliable. Sometimes the city is not actually at that precise location, and reports still filter in of its being seen in other places. Regardless, enough reliability of its location has allowed a consistent stream of treasure hunters to find it and return.
Qandir, the City of Brass, is now often depicted as a desert ruin, though this is not always true. Even at its most commonly found location it does not always present itself in this way. Its journeys through space and time have rendered some areas to be lush with vegetation and other areas frozen in snow and ice. And where Qandir is in another location altogether, such as the jungle in deep Pezelac, its terraced pyramids are overgrown with dense vegetation and the air is heavy with scents and humidity. The city is a mystery that defies simple classification. Its original population of several tens of thousands gave it a footprint of many square miles. A single simple description could never have been adequate even before its transformation. Now, it is literally impossible.
The uncatalogued and unguessed at experiments that blasted Qandir out of reality and its subsequent journeys have made exploration in the city perilous in the extreme. Magical hazards that crush and flense a human for no adequate reason appear to be rips in space/time and nothing ‘personal’. Other areas, around the laboratories of long dead mages, are laced with very specific man traps.