Lotus Blossom Steppes
“The New Moon is a symbol of eternal renewal, eternal destruction; even the gods themselves should see the lesson there…” – Thukten, samsaran genealogist

Capital: Mobile City of Um
Settlements: Asp Fortress (800), Green Bay (500), Mobile City of Um (125), The Nest (475), Stone Ford (700), Three Pillars (2,300)
Ruler: Khan Tiikeri “Claw of Anger”
Government: Tribal chiefdom
Races: Half-Rakshasa, Human, Nagaji, Polkan, Samsaran, Tengu
Faiths: Ithreia, Kamus, Paletius
Resources: Cattle, horses, leather
Languages: Draconic, Samsaran (Samsariyu), Sylvan
Border Conditions: Restricted (a full porphyrite border surrounds the Lung Plateau to the west)

History
The steppes have always been and always will be a sea of grass across which the herds travel. What the herds in the northern sector of the Dry Peninsula are composed of has expanded and changed over the ages. Paletius, The All-Seeing Eye, saw the empty plains as a place for his chosen Lung people to expand and grow great upon, and brought them there with The Calling. His hopes to avoid war were futile, though, as the scattered half-rakshasa that wandered the plains made resistance, ironically unallied with the elementalists of the south.

With their thralls, the polkans, they harried the emergent hordes of the New Khan, but were all but exterminated in the Lotus War, which changed the landscape with battling magics, changed in in odd and unexpected ways.

The most visible of the changes was revealed after the rains that fell in the wake of the war, as there were thousands of ponds scattered across the steppes and all of them, it seemed, were home to lotus flowers in seemingly endless variation. It is from this occurrence in times of legend, that the steppes gained their current name. The political history of the steppes is a never-ending litany of shifting alliances, battles and betrayals, with the occasional great leader of exceptional ability rising like Paletius’ sun to unite the tribes. When this happens, great events occur, like Shogun Toshiro “Old Crane” leading the Rising Sun Banner across the Bay of Jade to colonize The Last Kingdom, or when Khan Gengau “Fist of Fire” plundered Irontown under the Red King’s nose. When these monumental leaders die, however, the nation breaks back down into squabbling tribes.

The steppes have also ended up as a place for people displaced by their homelands for many different reasons, coming to lose themselves in the nomadic hordes. The exception is the polkan, ancient race of manhorses, who have prospered after winning their freedom when their half-rakshasa masters were put down. They proudly take no sides in tribal conflicts, though heroic individuals might do so.
Current Events
The Steppes are a dangerous place, for nearly a thousand years after the Lotus War, a child of the terrible rakshasa is the Grand Khan, chief of chiefs. Khan Tiikeri is leader of the Tiger Banner, and has a well-deserved reputation as a cunning leader. He holds his power through military and diplomatic favors owed him by other chiefs and hetmans, some of whom are deeply in his debt. His tigerriders seek to direct the tribes into aggression outside the Steppes, with varying degrees of success.

The polkan are divided into three major herds, with several sub-herds, and dominate the north-east, near the Wyrm’s Quarter, and sometimes accompany dragonslayers into that dire place. They do their best to take votes on important issues, but often resort to accepting noisy tyrants when they need to get things done, or go to war. The human tribes are organized under the Ten Banners of the Horse, all interrelated and prone to squabbling. While the most numerous, they are also the least organized and most likely to fall out among themselves.

Nagaji follow the Banner of the Cobra and ride giant lizards and snakes across the steppes, settling into defensive encampments at night. Though they dominate the area around Asp Fortress, their winter hibernation camp, they seek to return to the area known as the Wyrm’s Quarter, which came to Porphyra a segregated land.

They are always seeking allies for a mission to re-conquer that homeland, but get few takers. Freeporters have an irrational fear of nagaji that is well known. The samsaran, cultural paragons of the Landed humans, ride under the Banner of the New Moon and use their unique tie to their past lives to spiritually enhance their mounts, hounds, and hawks. The Banner of the New Moon is allowed safe passage through most other areas, as they follow a mystical path that the other tribes respect. They are often approached for advice on matters magical and spiritual, for they do not typically get involved in politics. Some samsarans now venerate Ithreia, exasperated at the competitive natures of the human tribes.

The tengu, natives to ancient Lung ‘The Dragon Plateau’, are newcomers to the steppe and are still considered outsiders. They are trying to find a place in Steppes culture, and have been serving as mercenary scouts and swordsmen with the other tribes.

Settlements
The major settlements of the Lotus Blossom Steppes are:

Asp Fortress, the winter home of the followers of the Cobra Banner, is built on a low bluff that contains several deep wells, it is not the most impressive of fortresses, but the slopes are seeded with simple traps to hinder attack. The nagaji carry on a brisk trade with the Sikoyan nomads of the treeless tundra to the north.

Green Bay is a small port town on the Bay of Jade, remarkable as the offloading place for trade goods to and from the Steppes. Its culture is more similar to that of the Last Kingdom, as it was Shogun Toshiro’s birthplace and social genesis.

The Mobile City of Um, an innovation of the Khan Tiikeri, has the most important yurts mounted on wagons, to be set up and taken down quickly. The entire city can cover miles in a day, and is moved to wherever the Tiger Banner needs to be seen.

The Nest is perched on the side of the Lung Plateau, an aerial town built from materials scavenged near and far. It serves as the central hub- and final fallback- for the tengu as they explore their new land.

Stone Ford is a main trade town on the south border of the Steppe, maintained by the Pale Horse tribe. It serves as a gateway for goods and people to and from the north, and is a good place to hire guides and mounts for exploration of lands beyond.

Three Pillars is the largest trade town in the steppe, built on the site of a group of ancient ruins- so ancient that only three pillars survive. It is here that most internal trade takes place, and it is a lively place, with much entertainment and no small number of fights.

Intrigues

  • A samsaran seer has seen the PCs in a vision, and has come to them for help in identifying and defeating a spiritual threat emanating from the Plateau of Lung. Refusal will mean being marked as anathema to all the tribes of the Steppe.
  • Unusual animals, many present on the Steppe, are much in demand in the zoos, arenas, and armories of lands far from the Dry Peninsula. Giant snakes, war tigers, yaks, buffalo are only a few that would bring a pretty penny.
  • Il-Khan Teharis, 3rd heir to Tiikeri, is putting out a call for brave adventurers to take the Challenge of the Wyrm. Do you dare throw your sword into the Ring of Acceptance?

See Also