The Waste is a country and region in which a few major events of the Shine Cycle, my fantasy series-in-preparation are set. Like unicorn country, I haven’t decided whether it’s alone in its universe or simply isolated somewhere.
When it is discovered, or rediscovered, the name “the Waste” is coined for it, and that is indeed an apt description—the country is a barren, windswept desert. There is one spring in the whole country large enough to support a permanent population of any size, in the center of the capital (and only inhabited) city. Other oases scattered across the country support a nomadic population. Soon after its discovery, the people of the Waste ask to join the Empire.
But elsewhere in the vast desert—and buried under the sands and the splash from craters—there are the ruins of a thriving society built on agriculture and trade. And these are not so much ruins as merely empty buildings, as though everyone had gone away suddenly and not come back. And there are treasures buried even deeper that are presently impossible to extract solely—it appears—because of the climate.
At the time of An Internal Conflict and A Calculated Wager, a few of the country’s self-styled elites have conspired to place all political power in their own hands, withdraw from (and for some reason declare war on) the Empire, and keep the Waste’s treasures under their control. Even for conspirators willing to play fast and loose with the rules, though, this takes time, and before they can succeed Silas and Persephone Royal are sent there on a routine tour of duty.
More than just the Waste, the freedom of its people, and Imperial prestige and face depend on what they find. While it’s probably a bit much to say “History holds its breath,” if Persephone fails her people and homeland will fall in the war that’s about to begin.