A beast leans over a lump in the shadowy shroud under a tree, barren of even a single leaf. At least...it looks like a beast. As he straightens out, looking warily around himself, this form is clearly a Man. He suddenly stands alert. Blood dripping down his chin, the metallic taste permeating his throat and stomach, he looks frantically around in every direction, as if looking for unseen foes. Satisfied there are none near, he resumes his meal. This is just another day of routine in the Waste, a day like any other. Out of nowhere, a bloodcurdling howl shrieks in the distance, turning even the most stoic of beings into a quivering mass of fear. Regretfully, the Man looks down mournfully at the remnants of his dinner, and dashes off to safety.
Safety. There is precious little of that in the Waste. Around every corner, every crevasse, hill, and cave, there's just as much of a chance at meeting your end at the hands of a fellow Hunter as there was a chance to catch your breath and grab a few hours of sleep. Even the stretches of peace are marred by the thinly-veiled feeling that any form of safety and rest is merely an illusion. But such is the mentality of the Waste. Hunt or be hunted, and only the strongest survive. Beast, rodent, or man, it doesn't matter what your next meal is, so long as you can live to fight another day.
What IS the Waste? A blistered, charred landscape where nothing other than the most poisonous or spiniest plants grow. Precious little water flows out of dirtied fissures in the sides of the barren hills. A few wispy trees hang on to the hilltops looking like they have seen better days. Brown is the most prevalent color, showing in the wide swaths of infertile soil that have been stripped of their former bits of grasses by hungry animals. Dust storms rise up with startling suddenness and unabound fierceness. And the orange/red sun hangs overhead beating a tempest of heat upon any living creature foolish enough to cling on to life in this dead hell.
None of the denizens of this tortured land know how it came to be. It is and has always been to them exactly as it is now, the burden shouldered by the generations living here from time immemorial. Occasionally there's a relic found in the dust whispering of a time of manufactured goods and comfortable living, but as often as not these memories of memories are twisted beyond recognition and used as a weapon by one of the Hunters or another. These weapons, ranging from what people from a past age called corkscrews or knives, to the most primitive spears consisting of a jagged piece of metal or glass tied to a branch off of one of the scant trees growing throughout the Waste. Every mentality of the Hunters in the Waste are tied to weaponry in one way or another. Taking an enemy's weapon after killing them is a symbol of status among the wild men of this place. The more weapons you collect the more feared and respected you are to the point where you can establish a sort of clan or alliance with other Hunters, and perhaps use them to provide you with safety through numbers...for a time. Inevitably within weeks the clans suffer from dissolution as the leader gets assassinated by one of the recruited Hunters.
But such is daily life in the Waste. When resources are within critically short supply many tend to take the easier, albeit more brutal way of life feasting on the bodies of those you slay. Many take this path, losing much of their humanity in the process. It is a destructive state of being offset only by the amazingly large birthrate perhaps best explained by the lack of inhibitions regarding reproduction by these feral humans, as well as terms of pregnancy lasting far shorter than they had in the past, ranging anywhere from three to five months. It's a harsh life, but one that provides a constant stream of sustenance for the clans and individual Hunters under this way of life.
There exists another type of people living in the Waste as well. A pacifistic people known as the Nomads who attempt to eke a living out of the land with the scant vegetables and livestock they can coax out of the tormented landscape. Always two steps from famine, they neverless refuse to become what the Hunters are and cling on to their humanity with every ounce of willpower they can muster. Due to the nature of the soil, nutrients from the soil tend to get depleted within the year, and so on the winter solstice, known as the Festival Of Bells, the Nomads enjoy one feast where everyone in the village gets enough to eat and then take on their caravans of wheeled houses to a fresh spot of hell in the waste and make preparations for once again furrowing the earth and sowing the seeds they count on beyond all else to live.
The Nomads are serviced by a Council Of Seven, whom they agree upon from three men and four women throughout the village, a tradition ingrained in the village from days of old in which there was a surplus of women although recently birthrates became about even for both genders. The Highest Lady from the Council is voted among them, and serves as sort of a mayor of the Nomads as well as creating propositions for the Council to vote on amongst themselves for the good of the community. One might wonder as to how they maintain their pacifistic nature in the face of Hunters, and the answer is fairly simplistic.
The third and final type of people is a warrior society living on the fringes of the Nomad villages. Known as the Bloodseekers, they provide security to the villages in exchange for meat and grains to supplement the Bloodseeker's game from the Waste. It's a symbiotic relationship in which they provide violent services that the Nomad's refuse to partake in. Other than fighting off Hunters, their other jobs include executioners for crimes and butchers for the special occasions when the Nomads supplement their meals with a bit of meat. No one knows if they're Hunters who have become somewhat less destructive, or Nomads who broke their vows of peace, but for centuries they've been the protectors of the peaceful anomaly in a deadly landscape.
The Bloodseekers are sorted into separate groups known as "circles". Each of these circles consist of one leader and twelve warriors, and each are assigned to their own patrol around the borders and within the pathways of the villages. On actions pertaining to the Bloodseekers as a whole the nine Eldest circle leaders arrange a meeting and vote for a speaker amongst those gathered. The Speaker has executive decision for three moon cycles, after which he or she is permanently barred from all subsequent meetings of the leaders and often retires to the outskirts of the Nomad villages to live out their twilight years, and a new warrior takes their place in that circle. The retired Speakers often become a source of wisdom for those Bloodseekers searching for advice.
These three form the nuclei of humanity in the Waste. The pacifists, the warriors, and the hunters are constantly embroiled in an eternal struggle for dominance through Bloodseekers battles with Hunters and arguments with Nomads. In this destruction unbeknownst the to the denizens within the Waste events will soon unfold that will turn their way of life on their head and nothing will remain the same.