Shades of Amber
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Volturnus is what early astronomers and authors wished desperately of Mars. It has air, and water, and the heat bakes the lowlands. At once time, the place was home to a bustling, advanced, benign civilization that persisted for half a million years. Climatic disaster slowly overtook the planet: the seas dried up, the animals changed or died out, the people had to breed hardier descendants or risk extinction. As water became scarce a vast engineering project was undertaken to gouge canals from the polar caps to equatorial regions in the hopes of alleviating drought.
Ruined cities of fantastic architecture perch on the horizon, or are covered over by the marching dunes. Crumbling villas hide among the rocky highlands, some home to perpetual springs of fresh water, if only they can be located. Many mysteries persist across the land, and some lead to doom for the ill-prepared. Others, it is rumored, mean salvation.
Civilization as it exists now is communal or tribal, rather than bureaucratic or extensive. The largest governments are throwbacks to an era of city-states and isolated villages. In the palaces of old, new monarchies, oligarchies, and theocracies hold sway. The abandoned cities of the old people are populated sparsely by tribes of raiders and other feral creatures.