Backwaters of Sindall A.K.A. The Deadlands
The Backwaters of Sindall A.K.A. The Deadlands is a disputed region which sits between Rowen and Korrinth to the north of Sindall. The region was once airable and home to peoples from all three lands, though principally the Sindalise. During the late Sixth Age de facto government was set up by warlord sorcerer Hidakots (of Korra descent). The land later became a desert.
The Backwaters were originally arable but dry, receiving on average 20 inches of rain per year. There were no forests but scattered trees. It was mostly grassland back then, with very poor-quality soil. The area was home to a sizable shallow freshwater lake called The Dogga Sea, impounded by the Dogga Escarpment.
The Backwaters are so-named by the Sindalise because the region could only be reached by traversing the furthest tributaries of the River Elb, then climbing the Dogga Escarpment. A challenging journey at the best of times, only to reach a region that could only barely be described as arable.
Still, many battles were fought in the region, most notably between the Marcon Alliance and ancient Rowen. The Rowens reportedly did not do well in the open country, and focused on hit-and-run tactics designed to harass and demoralize Marconians before the real fighting began in Rowen Proper. On several occasions during the war, the Rowens were able to capture and hold Two-Fang's Pass, effectively cutting off invasion from Korrinth through that route.
No one ever really wanted The Backwaters for themselves, only for its geographic proximity to Sindall and Rowen (both regions which historically resisted the Marcons extremely violently).
During the early decades of the Golden Age, the dispute shifted from the battlefield to the halls of the Alliance. Rowen and Korrinth both lay ancestral claims on the region, while at the time a portion of the government in Sindall made a bid for the land to extend their formal borders (Sindall was then in a dispute with Ozork Flight, preventing them from establishing a formal border to the east and the Plains of Blood and Salt. All three states were members of the Alliance now in good standing (though Korrinth was the last to join). The arguments were fierce, and the concern over an armed conflict was a very real possibility. The absurdity of the situation was pointed out by the newly-minted Pendragon Aden Searlin, who commented that everyone was getting ready to go to war over a fetid swamp.
The Korra first began to take matters into their own hands by building "collective farms" in the region. These were little more than thinly-veiled military encampments and were openly called out by Rowen as an act of war. Sindall was the first to formally mobilize its army in response. Due to a separate mutual defense pact with neighboring Sahal, they were required to prepare for war as well, which in turn invoked various Alliance measures. This created a very complicated situation: Korrinth was a member of the Alliance and refused to acknowledge the troop formations in The Backwaters, having them instead plant crops around the encampments both to advance the lie about the farms, and to invoke Alliance laws regarding colonization.
Aden Searlin called upon the then-newly formed Gudersnipe Foundation for assistance. The Foundation had recently sold a large quantity of light and medium weapons to Sindall; mostly rifles, mortars, and artillery. By contrast, Korrinth was still arming its soldiers with pikes and shields. Foundation analysis predicted that Sindall would defeat Korrinth handily, but in doing so inflict very severe casualties. Korrinth had neither the technology nor the understanding to deal with gunshot wounds, and Sindallise soldiers lacked the training and discipline to use the new weapons effectively. The battle would be a bloodbath.
However, to further complicate matters, the Foundation had an old non-aggression pact with Rowen that forbade them from interfering militarily, even if it was on Rowen's side. So Aden did the practical thing: he asked the Foundation to do something "non-militarily".
Enter the Crimson Blade Corpse of Engineers. They already had extensive maps of the area per their military campaign in Korrinth a century earlier, and found the region vulnerable to a particular kind of attack. Working in tandem with the Rowen Militia, the engineers dug a series of secret canals which drained the deadlands of all water. In a matter of a few short months, the region went from dry but workable with great effort, to a mostly empty desert next to an enormous inland sea. It was an ecological disaster in an already ecologically-devastated area, but it had the desired effects.
The crops planted by the Korri failed before their first harvest, which annulled their colonization claims. With the crops failed they could also no loner support the collective farm lie. The troops were forced to withdraw (both for political reasons and out of thirst), and the crisis was averted.
Aden Searlin then brought representatives from the three nations back to the negotiating table. As punishment for the unlawful military incursion, Korrinth was forced to drop all territorial claims on the region (a requirement they found easy to comply with, given the land was now useless to them). Sindall and Rowen were then asked why did they want the land. The Sindallese government replied that they did not want it, but that they would not support any action that gave it to Korrinth. Most of the border between Korrinth and Sindall was controlled by good natural defenses. If the Korri were allowed control of the Deadlands, they would have an extremely convenient invasion route into Sindall (the only barrier being the Dogga Escarpment, and that served the invaders better than defenders). Sindall said they did not care what ultimately happened to the land as long as no standing army was placed there. The Rowen representative expressed similar desires, that the land was useless now but that they wanted it as a buffer against invasion.
Since Rowen and Sindall were long-time allies, the land was officially given to Sindall (who by now did not want it) in order to appease Korrinth (who did not want the Rowens to have it, but had no disputes with Sindall). The Backwaters were classified as a "Remote Autonomous Region".
Thanks to finally having official recognition in the early part of the Golden Age, The Backwaters opened up as a sort of new frontier. Many companies in the more civilized regions of Aren liked to promote colonization efforts and land-grabs, few if any of whom were recognized by the government of Sindall. Do to its remote location and difficulty of access from Sindall, providing any sort of governmental services such as police or doctors, was nearly impossible. Attempts were made to build a railroad at various points in the Golden Age, but crossing the Dogga Escarpment proved too expensive. The only formal way in or out of the region was by riverboat and mule trail (the various routes up the escarpment were not even wide enough to accommodate wagons).
There were, however, two other very easy ways into The Backwaters: via Rowen or Sindall; both of whom refused to recognize the region's status. As such, it became a de facto state, populated mostly by criminals and outlaws from the two countries (and settlers coming in illegally through Sindall).
For centuries over the later part of the Golden Age, The Backwaters were divided, united, and generally fought-over by a never-ending series of bandit gangs and tinpot dictators, none of whom could solve the core problem of making a life in an arid, resource-poor region prosperous.
By the start of the Second Age The Backwaters had turned into an enormous headache for all parties involved. Sindall no longer had a formal military of any kind, just a poorly-armed militia mostly focused on responding to natural disasters, and long ago gave up any pretense of policing the region.
The so-called "New Troubles" began when Korrinth (by then in possession of a modern, mechanized army) fortified Two-Fang's Pass and declared the border with Sindall Closed. Provincial Rowen, meanwhile, which had no natural boundary (or even a formal, surveyed border with) The Backwaters, was subject to constant raids by groups living in the autonomous region. Since most of Rowen's grain came from the indefensible provinces, the impact on their food supply was critical.
Rowen called for the Alliance to do something, who in demanded Sindall take action. Sindall did: they formally re-drew their boarders at the Dogga Escarpment and declared The Backwaters a sovereign state. This notion was challenged in Alliance courts, but the government of Sindall won. The laws provided an interesting example of loophole abuse: in order for an individual to be recognized as a citizen of an Alliance member nation, they were required to have identification issued by that Nation. Sindall, however; had always played very fast and loose with such things (as did Rowen). In the more urban parts of Sindall, only about 60% of the residents even had government-issued identification (it was "optional" and needed for very few things), and the further one got from the population centers, the less in the outlying regions. In the whole of The Backwaters there were maybe 10 people recognizable as Sindalise citizens, all of whom were promptly evacuated.
With the issue now falling firmly on Rowen's shoulders, they began to raise an army and informed the Alliance of plans to "pacify" the region, making thinly-veiled threats of a war of extermination. In any case they clearly preparing to take and occupy the land, and Rowens had historically not done well with non-Rowens living under there command.
So before the Rowens could mobilize, the Alliance put together a "peace keeping" detachment and deployed troops to the area. This proved to be a massive logistical challenge. The troops had to enter through Korrinth (it being the only border with modern transportation amenities), but could not deploy actual soldiers from Korrinth's military (as they would likely occupy the land and finally claim it for Korrinth). Alliance Regulars had to be used, and the size of the region called for 70,000 men.
The boots-on-the-ground operation found the region very sparsely populated. Several fishing and farming communities around Lake Dogga were just as bad off as the frequently raided Provincial Rowens, with the bandit tribes focused mainly in the east. These people were found to have formed a unique culture, one based mainly on theft and war, and papers of the time called it "a new Mage Wars brewing". The total population of the geographically quite large area was only about 100,000, but with maybe half of these feeding themselves entirely through banditry, it was not a well-celebrated country.
Most of the inhabitants were born there and found to be of mixed Rowen and Korra descent, though expatriates and their descendants from Sindall were also common. The Korra were quick to name the new mixed-race locals as "The Dogga People" for their proximity to the lake of the same name, and because it sounded like "Dog People". About 30,000 of them were forcibly re-settled in Korrinth where they unfortunately became a permanent lower-class.
Those who were to be sent to Rowen fared even worse. Because of the perceived slight, anyone from the region (whether they'd been involved in banditry or not) was bared from entering Rowen. The Alliance pointed out these people were of Rowen descent and demanded Rowen do something. The Rowen government in turned declared them all criminals and paid the Gudersnipe Foundation to have them exported to penal colonies off-world. Most were quietly re-settled in Foundation-controlled space when it was clear they had no criminal intent. This accounted for about 40,000 people.
20,000 former inhabitants of The Backwaters were re-settled in Sindall where a recent economic boom created demand for workers. About 10,000 inhabitants were allowed to remain, primarily those living in fishing communities on the edge of Lake Dogga and the Dogga Escarpment. These people were mostly settled from Sindall in the first place and of primarily Sindalise descent (though like in most of the Alliance, race-mixing was commonplace).
Over the next century, the Alliance conducted periodic "cleaning runs" through The Backwaters, looking for illegal settlements. The fishing communities were logged and tightly controlled (somewhat disparaging the regional status as "autonomous"). In A.Y. 2123, The Backwaters were declared "fine".
The name "Deadlands" began to enter common parlance around this time. The Alliance Regulars, who were briefed in Korrinth, mistakenly spread the word that that was what the region was called. Rowen similarly used the term when petitioning the Alliance. Meanwhile, a clogging of the old drainage channels and shifts in the environment, made the Deadlands anything but.
During the late Sixth Age, The Deadlands had become a wild, rugged, remote place. A sorcerer by the name of Hidakots began to build a power base there, with designs on conquering Rowen and Sindall. He was defeated by a young, upstart sorceress called Lina Rowen, who later became a Slayer Dragon.
Early in the Long Night, probably around A.Y. 6963, Samuel Fate appeared in the area. Records are sparse as to exactly why, though its believed he was fighting remnants of the First File led by Emily Jusenkyou. Using a massive burst of magic, he ripped a out a stretch of land between Lake Dogga and the Dogga Escarpment, allowed the waters of the lake to flow freely into the River Elb. This massive flood destroyed every major city in Sindall and dealt a horrific blow to whomever Fate was fighting.
Regardless of who he was targeting, Fate's destruction of the escarpment completed his primary goal. With the urban centers wiped up, the surviving Sindalise were forced to revert to an agrarian society. Once the Lake Dogga drained, the Deadlands truly became dead.