This book is titled “Karath Smoothmane – Winter Comes”. It is a complete volume chronicling the events of a centaur chieftain and the decline of his tribe.
The following is the account of my travels with Karath Smoothmane, chief of the Baelazern tribe of centaurs in the Commonlands. Throughout the time I spent with him, I came to know him as a good friend. Not only did I learn his customs, I learned much about his life, as well. This tale is my last memory of this proud centaur.
At this point, it had already been close to ten winters that I had been traveling with Karath’s tribe, the Baelazern. Karath was already beginning to show some silver in his mane by now, and the two sons the High mare had given him were growing to look just like him. This is when Karath asked of me what would be his last request.
Karath asked me to follow him to the great crater, site of the doomed alliance ceremony between the giants and the centaurs. We left at dawn and spent the next several days trekking across the Steppes. Being that it was during the mid-season, the heat was beginning to take a toll on me. When I could take it no more, I looked over and saw that he was worse for wear than even I.
The sweat glistening off his fur had an unhealthy sheen to it, but it did not compare to the look of consternation on his face. I asked him if he was alright, and he insisted that we continue, for we didn’t have much further to go. Not an hour later, we arrived at our destination and spied that is was overrun by gnolls. Karath then told me that we needed to speak, for he was dying.
Karath told me that he had a sickness in his lungs that the tribal medicine man could not cure. Much had been done to heal him of this wasting illness, but to no avail. I yelled at him and demanded to know why he did not tell me. He said that no one knew – just him and the medicine man. I asked him why there was so much secrecy and he told me that when he dies, the Baelazern clan will die with him.
Karath then told me the secret to the centaurs surviving upon the Steppes where everyone else either emigrated or was extinguished. Many, many years ago, a man approached Karath’s sire and offered a deal. He offered to keep the tribe safe from the gnolls and surrounding humans, all in exchange for one small favor.
The man, who called himself Varsoon, only asked for Karath’s sire’s firstborn son in return for his assistance. Karath’s sire refused and demanded the man leave at once. Karath was safe, and the tribe struggled to survive. When Karath was made chief, the man came again. And Karath made a choice he now regrets.
Karath agree to the deal, and handed over his firstborn son. Though everyone thinks he died in a hunting accident, the truth is far worse. The prosperity of the Baelazern tribe was all due to his son’s unwilling sacrifice. Karath believed the fate of one outweighed the fate of dozens. That was until Varsoon came to him again and demanded another son. Karath drove him away this time, but not without a terrible price.
Varsoon issued a curse upon the tribe from afar. Karath now realizes what he has done. With his bloodline in the hands of Varsoon, the tribe would never be free of Varsoon. However, if Karath died without blessing his son, then the tribe would be free to join up with other herds. The Baelazern would be done, but it’s people would live on. With that, he thanked me for being his friend, and proceeded to gallop down into the crater, full of ravenous gnolls.
That was the last time I ever saw Karath. Since then, his clan broke apart and merged with other surrounding clans. The giants and the centaurs would eventually go to war again with each other, nearly decimating each other. Though he does not know I am there, I still spy his grandson, Zair, from time to time. In my heart, I hope that his grandson will have the strength to reunite the Baelazern once again. If not, I do not expect the two peoples, giants and centaurs, to last another century on Norrath.