South of the mountains streches a great salt desert, white dunes as far as the eye can see and a wind that stings the eyes. It is not hot, but rain never falls, and the air is drier than anywhere else in the world. There are no rivers, but there are oases, where water bubbles to the surface. The greatest of these springs is surrounded by the palace of the god-king Hamun, which is surrounded by the city of Hamun-ran, "Hamun's Household," built entirely out of salt.
Hamun has absolute control over the spring. Not a sip is drunk in the city without his blessing. It is his terrace-tower gardens that supply all food. It is his masked and voiceless guard who keep the peace, it is they who prevent any from leaving the city.
Hamun's wife, the Queen of Birds, keeps watch over the people through the eyes of vultures. She alone lives in a building not made of salt, but a gilded stone tower whose shine becomes painful to look at when the sun has risen. No one has seen the Queen of Birds, and it is rumored that there have been many Queens, discarded and replaced at Hamun's whim.
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