In centuries past, the magnificent Sinkarya Empire ruled the land now known as the Wastes. Wealthy kings on gilded thrones commanded armies of slaves, worshiping strange gods and taking advice from powerful magi. They fought many wars with both Parsanshar and the kingdoms of the East, and since all sides made liberal use of magic on the battlefield, these became known as the Mage Wars of Sinkarya.
The Magi Wars ravaged the landscape. Fire, lightning, ice, and fouler, darker magics blasted and scorched the earth. Spells cast by both sides mingled in strange, unpredictable ways, twisting the fabric of reality. Horrendous beasts were loosed upon the people of Sinkarya, devouring friend and foe alike. Yet these were seen as the costs of war, and the battle for greater power raged on.
Sinkarya was allied with Parsanshar against the Far Eastern armies when the Cataclysm occurred. In the greatest battle of the Mage Wars, both sides brought their full forces to bear, fielding hundreds of magi. Exactly what triggered the blast, no one lived to say. Some blending of magic spells unleashed a wave of arcane energy unlike any the world had ever seen, or has ever seen since. Both armies were wiped out, and the vast majority of the population of Sinkarya died in terrlble agony. In the wake of this blast, the Sinkarya Empire crumbled, and the Great Waste was born.
Today, the Wastes are simply one more barrier preventing trade between East and West. The Jagged Edge dwindles at its southern tip, so the Sinkarya Empire formerly served as a trade route between the two sides of the mortal world... but now, the danger of passing through the Wastes is so great that precious few dare attempt it. Armed caravans are occasionally led through by seasoned explorers who know the single narrow route that might let them safely cross, but only the most daring of merchant companies attempt it. The sea route around the Wastes is not much safer, for the waters too are fraught with horrors from the Cataclysm.
The landscape of the Wastes is dominated by dark grey sand and black stones. What little water can be found is acrid and noxious, or boiling hot. There are few signs of life, but caravans that encounter not a single living thing are counted lucky. Some return with tales of attacks by shadow-creatures, like wraiths or demons out of one's darkest nightmares. Oft times, such survivors are considered mad, and perhaps they are - many tell of voices calling to them from the dark reaches of the Wastes or from the depths of the old Sinkaryan Sea.
Perhaps worse, the earth itself is unpredictable. Landmarks in the Wastes seem to shift location, especially the legendary Untouchable Tower of Nirav Sadar, which taunts travelers from afar. Seasoned adventurers grow lost and confused as north turns to west, south to east, and even the stars above appear wrong. Terrifying storms crop up from nowhere, rending the air and the earth below with bolts of purple lightning. Earthquakes open chasms and close valleys, shifting the land at random. All attempts to create reliable maps of the Wastes have ended miserably.