Dying of the Light
Flat, wild and seemingly stretching forever the Southern Steppes though they go by one name are actually a host of biomes that stretch across an almost continent-sized area. Starting out from the foothills of the Spine across and all the way to the south sea the Steppes go from hills to high steppes to low pusztas and salt steppes and into sprawling savannas. Some areas are almost desertified while others are lush and vibrant. Herds of wild mast-oxen roam the lands, both hunted and herded by the many ebony-skinned tribes that call the Steppes home. Water and food are hard to find here for the layman but it isn’t impossible for skilled bushmen to live off the land with ease. The abundance of game have made the tribesmen living in the flats excellent trackers and stalkers and they often hire out their services to caravans making their way eastwards or north, towards The Stonefast.
The Northern parts of the Steppes are called the High Steppes and are inhabited by brown-skinned charioteering tribes like the Grim Deaths and Slaughter Wolves. Riding around in heavy, five man covered chariots drawn by pounce-oxen they frequently raid the caravans going north and are pursued by Stonefast Border Wardens.
A bit south-east of the High Steppes the salt steppes begin. A stretch of barren, salt-crusted hills mark the boundary to a large, flat expanse of cracked land and bitter but colourful pools of water. Salt-sifting bloated beasts called Duwars roam this land in small packs and the only humans who brave it are the Adwa tribesmen who live in deep burrows in the Lone Range and collect drinkable water through elaborate moisture traps. Twice a year this cracked desert comes alive as the monsoon rolls in and millions of colourful salt-plants bloom for a short while.To the south the Lone Range and the salty lake called the Bitter Sea separate the salt steppes from the Central Steppes.
The Central Steppes are the most populous part of the South, cities excluded, and the ones most people think about when referring to the steppes in general. Stretching from the Bitter sea and its salt flats and the hills in the Lone Range in the North, to the South Sea, all the way east to the Spiritfall mountains and west to the Seat of the Order they are also the largest slice of the steppes. All manner of herd animals migrate across these vast grasslands from massive wild mast-oxen to herds of willow-antelopes and Tower-lizards. Vicious predators like giant cassowaries, pack-bears and steppe lions hunt them along the way. But the ebony skinned tribesmen that inhabit these lands are by far the most dangerous predators. Most are nomadic, following the herds in their migration though they always return to a few sacred cities and their strange, towering temples built of reed and mud brick.
The Seat of the order dominates a more lush area of the steppes called the League. More civilized, with roads and townships and widespread irrigation this is still a large grassland though there are several marshlands and wet forests around the north west.
Towards the West, across the jungles of the Claw Range wild lush savannas stretch for hundreds of miles broken up only by the occasional copse of trees. The nomadic Wale tribesmen, easily recognizable by their white tattoos and bald heads are the masters of the tall grass savannas. Their rule stops at the curtain-forests of the Uncoiled Snake river. Much of the river basin and the forests in the western highlands are ruled by the Ganai tribes, matriarchal warlike tribes of a distinct lighter skin tone than any other place in the south save for the Stonefast.
The Spiritfall mountains are the eastern barrier by the long sea called the Stretch. Covered in impenetrable jungles and home to some of the fiercest tribes and predators it is a savage and unforgiving place. And yet, many sages claim they were once the seat of a great empire whose ruins are now covered by the jungle.
North-east of the mountains and east of the salt steppes is the Bounty River basin. Dominated by many small fortified city-states it is an unforgiving and lawless place where bandits, swamp dwellers and river pirates prey on merchant barges and local holdfasters. The mouth of the River opens in a wide lagoon where the city of Rogueport meets weary travellers with a smile and a dagger. East of the river basin the vegetation gets sparse and the ground rocker as the steppes give way to the arid Highlands.