Authors' note: I was writing a description for the Zeklaus Desert, but got a bit carried away. Hope you enjoy it! =)
The Tale of the Sand Rat Cellar
The Zeklaus Desert was a veritable hellhole. Few other places offered both scorching heat and freezing cold in the span of a day. The numerous monsters that roamed this arid wasteland made it all the more undesirable, as few travellers had the willingness or expertise to take down a group of charging behemoths. It wasn't a place that anyone would want to be in, much less set up a military outpost in.
More than a half-century ago, there was an unprecedented surge in monster attacks. Helpless merchants were getting waylaid by monsters, their tales of these encounters spreading throughout the land. They told of savage creatures of unknown origin, stopping at nothing to get at their stocks of machine parts and their supplies of crude oil. These attacks seemed to be most prevalent in Lesalia, where many unlucky merchants crowded the bars of the Imperial City, bemoaning their losses over flagons of ale. This trend worried the Royal Family greatly. They pledged to save travellers from these attacks, and put an end to the scourge that plagued Ivalice.
Military outposts were set up along the numerous roads leading to Lesalia. Troops were stationed along Doguola Pass, Grog Hill, and even in the oft-overlooked Zeklaus Desert. "Every citizen is important to us," proclaimed Lord Denamda II. "We recognise that not all use the main trade routes for some reason or other. But fear not, we have outposts even along the roads less travelled. Never again will you have to fear for your safety when travelling through Ivalice."
And so it came to be that the Sand Rat's Cellar was built. The Knights approached the desert with hesitation, questioning the need to build a fort right in the middle of no-man's land. However, as stalwart defenders of Ivalice, they had pledged unceasing obedience to the Crown and had to obey each and every order they were given, no matter how questionable a decision it might be. After being reminded that being branded as traitors would somewhat harm their future job prospects, they suddenly regained their enthusiasm and went to construct the outpost.
The knights did as they were told, hauling tons of stone and brick to construct the fortress. However, the knights appeared to have lost their bearings, constructing the structure near the outskirts of the desert instead of in the middle as they were instructed. Their shoddy work extended to their construction as well, as the fortress was inexplicably small, being no more than a glorified bunker instead of a magnificent fortress as was originally planned. Denamda II ruled that the knights were unworthy of holding such honoured positions. The knights had failed to do the simple task of constructing a grand building in the middle of an inhospitable desert, and were unfit to lead the outpost. They were relieved from duty and relegated to menial jobs as guards or footsoldiers. Oddly though, the knights seemed happy to oblige.
A troop of squires, fresh from the Military Academy in Gariland, was given control of the fort. They were excited for their first military posting, jumping at the chance to find honour and glory as outpost guards in a barren desert. Their enthusiasm was somewhat dampened when they ran out of water on the first day, and came down with heatstroke on the next. Still, they soldered on, in the hopes of impressing their superiors with their dedication towards the job.
The extreme conditions took its toll on them, forcing them to seek shelter in the cellar whenever possible. It shielded them from the occasional sandstorm, but offered little respite from the extreme temperatures of the desert. Nonetheless, it was a far better alternative than being in the fort, as the roofless building provided scant protection from the elements. The squires, disgusted at their indolent compatriots, resolved to build the roof themselves, hauling stone over the desert sands to accomplish this task. Unfortunately, their plan did not come to fruition for reasons unknown to the author.
The townspeople of Dorter were familiar with the squires, who frequently made trips there to stock up on supplies. 'Sand Rats', they called them, comparing them to the oversized rodents that roamed the desert sands. It was rather apt, as the rats were similarly holed up in their burrows for most of the day, only coming out occasionally to forage for food. The squires seemed to grow more cynical by the day, they claimed, postulating that their initial fervour was worn away by the unforgiving conditions in the desert. I for one believe in the knights of Ivalice, and that their infallible will and love for the country will triumph over all odds. Such talk only serves to emphasise the idiocy of these common peasants.
For some reason, the squires reportedly went missing mere months after their posting. Some etymologists argue that their insubordination was the basis for the term "deserter", a term that has seen increasing use after this incident came to light. The royal family had taken notice of this problem, but did not act on it. They had far more pressing issues, as their plan to invade Ordalia took precedence over the staffing of an unknown fort in some backwater hovel. Either way, they had succeeded, as the monster invasions had come to a mysterious halt just a month after the measures were announced.
However, the damage had been done. Many merchant consortiums fell on hard times after the attacks, the loss of their goods affecting them greatly. Surprisingly, the Bart Trading Company did not fall victim to any of these attacks. It gained control of trade across the region, as well as having a near-monopoly in the trade of machine parts and crude oil. Many rival companies were assimilated by the consortium, and it was looking to be a very profitable business indeed.
Unfortunately, the emergence of the 50-Years-War put a wrench in their plans, effectively ruining Ivalices' economy and depriving it of lucrative trade deals with Ordalia and Romanda. Still, some maintain it was for the greater good, as the Bart Trading Company was allegedly involved in many criminal activities, including smuggling, slave trading and murder.
These accusations are unfounded, of course - the Bart Trading Company has been extremely generous in donating to many orphanages across the country, and has sponsored many bridge and road-building projects. The lords of Lionel view the Company in high regard, commending their generousity and business acumen. The Zeklaus Desert saga was quite unfortunate indeed, but it all worked out for the best in the end.
- Official Historian to the Royal Family, Junk 'Little Jon' Draclau