Category Archives: The Thundering Steppes

The Case of the Lost Lute

The Case of the Ayonic Lute
I have begun to develop a fascination with a magical lute called the Ayonic Lute. While passing through the Thundering Steppes I happened upon a curious bard by the name of Maestra Orlita. She was a ruling member of a miniscule quintet of bards that call themselves the Chaos Orchestra. Having piqued my interest in eccentric quintets, I decided to seek out the four remaining bards of this orchestra. What I found were two lyricists in Qeynos Harbor and two within East Freeport. Offering little save ancient songs, the lyricists went on to ignore me and force their out of tune melody upon the citizens of the great empires of man. If I were to find out anything more about the Chaos Orchestra, it would be in city records.

These words have yet to reveal themselves to you.

These words have yet to reveal themselves to you.

These words have yet to reveal themselves to you.

I found the “belly of a giggling fish.” To be more precise, I found the theater of the Laughing Trout, a tavern in Rivervale. I found a peculiar xylophone made from bones, the hagralaphone. This curious musical device emanated with arcane power. I discovered that the hagralaphone was made by woodworkers from Bogbottom Mills. Tracking down the halfling shop was an easy enough task, but it was overrun with goblins. I did find the descendant and current owner of Bogbottom Mills, Camfred. He told me that his ancestors created the hagralaphone out of the bones of an evil troll witch named Hagralazoo. They did this by order of the legendary bard, Vhalen.

I journeyed to Antonica to find the Bell Tower of Vhalen. It is there that Vhalen fell to a great horde of undead. It is in the ancient tower that I spoke to the vision of Vhalen, a projection of the bard that now is bound to Ethernere. He said that Hagralazoo, the troll witch and arch nemesis of Rivervale, had taken the cursed Ayonic Axe from the Chaos Orchestra as they fled Katta Grove. She tricked them into destroying themselves in a final concert. She then used the axe and its bardic powers to begin a series of secret concerts in which she would collect the valuables from the deceased audience and the unwitting bard whom she tricked into wielding the melodic axe.

The vision of Vhalen said, Hagralazoo lost the axe to an unwitting accomplice, Kelkarn. She had hoped the bard could assist her in completing an arcane composition that she had stolen from the mysterious sage, the Drafling. The composition could remove the curse from the axe, allowing the witch to use it. However, the composition was incomplete. Kelkarn was a well known bard and the troll witch came to him on a misty road during his many travels. In the guise of an old crone, Hagralazoo persuaded the bard to display his talents. She then gave him the Drafling composition and asked him to complete it. If he did, the Ayonic Axe could be his- a lie!

These words have yet to reveal themselves to you.

Hagralazoo never made it back in time to recover the Ayonic Axe thanks to the Drafling. When she did, she found the axe was removed. It vanished via the black market auctions of Freeport. Vhalen was able to find the Ayonic Axe and hide it. As luck would have it, the Drafling was an asssociate of his! Vhalen requested the remains of Hagralazoo be used to create the Hagralaphone. The unique xylophone could summon the troll witch back so that she could reveal the composition that Kelkarn completed. Many years living in the land between life and death may persuade the troll witch to reveal the location to Vhalen or another bard such as myself.

Karath Smoothmane – The Breaking of the Pact

This book is titled “Karath Smoothmane – Breaking of the Pact “. It is a complete volume chronicling the events of a centaur chieftain and how the tribe managed to co-exist with the giants of the Thundering Steppes.
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. One of the most important tales I learned from him is transcribed in the following pages – The Breaking of the Pact.

It was late in the summer when Karath told me why the centaurs would attack only the groups of giants that had six or more in them. Instead of singling out the easier targets, such as the old or the occasional wandering giant, the herd would attack those that could easily defend themselves. He said that this was due to the Breaking of the Pact.

Karath’s sire’s sire was the chieftain of the Baelazern tribe at the time when the Pact was broken. It seems that both the giants and the centaurs had a generations-long truce to share the land, staying out of each other’s way. Both races lived in harmony, even throughout the time of the Rending. Not only would the Shattering destroy the moon of Luclin, it would also break apart the Pact the two peoples held.

As the very moon began to barrage the land, both of the two peoples decided that they must work together in order to survive. Both leaders of the races agreed to meet so that they could work out an alliance, not just a truce. Much ceremony was prepared for when the two would meet.

As both parties met and exchanged their welcoming customs, tragedy struck. In a blazing ball of fire, an enormous boulder from the moon struck the ground where both leaders were, killing them instantly. Only a few people survived the impact, and they went back to describe the treachery of the other side, blaming each other for what happened.

For the next several years, open warfare broke out among both the giants and the centaurs. Finally, when Kararth’s sire came of breeding age, he rose up and united the clan once again. With his eloquent words, he stopped the centaurs from raiding the giants by emphasizing honor. He told them he had a plan.

The plan that Karath had in mind would involve showing the giants that they were nothing more than beasts. They could not defeat their enemies by lowering themselves down to their level. If the centaurs were to survive the Shattering, they must not come out of it as barbaric as a human. Or so, these were the words that Karath had said to his people.

And so the Baelazern clan proceeded to agree to rules of engagement, asking for council from their new chief. As the years went on they, refined their tactics to the point that they would only attack those that could defend themselves. Karath said that since that day, the centaurs have succeeded at his sire’s vision. I asked Karath how many foes they have defeated since then, and he responded with one word, “None”.

I was wondering how not killing a single giant, the centaur’s sworn enemy for close to a hundred years, could be considered successful. Seeing my confusion, Karath chuckled and told me the why. As his sire grew up, waiting for the day when he would rule his people, he would run and play with his only friend… the giant chieftain’s son.

While they played, they both came up with a plan on how to get their people to work together, yet to also keep their pride. When both chieftains were old enough to lead their people, the plan went into effect. Both people would only attack those that could defend themselves. In the end, even though they war with each other, both peoples have not lost one warrior, woman, or child to the other side for the past two generations.

Iriana Cellus’ Family History Book

I am sure that some of my family’s writings still exist elsewhere in Norrath. Unless they were destroyed in the Shattering or as mentioned before, held back by unscrupulous vendors. Whatever portion of this tome you have, cherish it and remember the Cellus family of Qeynos.
I found ancient papers written by not only my ancestors, but by others from the past. Maybe the heat of the sun on the plains preserved the writings. Illene never did get to see Qeynos, as her family moved east rather than west. I cannot imagine the world described! My father says he can remember when the moon was whole, but it has always appeared in my sky as a shining smear, like fish scales spilling from a broken bowl.

I am Iriana Cellus and I live in an area known as the Thundering Steppes. There are no ships because the oceans are still too rough, but I like to sit on the shore and watch the waves. Father says the seas never used to come up so high.

Oh! The other day I saw the oddest thing! A rat, nearly as tall as myself! And it could speak, but I did not understand it, at first. After a while, it sat next to me and we drew pictures in the dirt to talk. His family comes from far away, looked like under the mountains. Or it might have been under the waves. He didn’t draw very well, but then again, neither do I. He ran away when my sister approached. Later, I saw another one peering out from a ruined watchtower. There are more and more of these interesting new creatures in the Steppes. I didn’t ask anyone what it was; I know they would say it’s my imagination. As if I could imagine up a talking rat! I wonder if I’ll see him again, or any of these other rat-people?

My father said we are going to help rebuild Qeynos, so we’ll be leaving in a day or two. It is the only city left in the entire world. Well, besides Freeport. I cannot wait! I wonder what will happen to the rat-people? Where can they go?

Antonica Creature Catalog

Before the Rending, Antonica was the name of a very large continent that included the cities of Qeynos, Freeport, Halas, Rivervale, Highhold, Oggok and Gukta. Since the cataclysms that changed the lands, the name “Antonica” refers only to the western half of the continent of Karan. Its major city is Qeynos, which is located on Antonica’s western coast.
Antonica is the western half of the continent of Karan. It is surrounded by the ColdwindCoast on its north, west and southwestern edges. To the southeast, the PhantomMountains separate Antonica from the Thundering Steppes. Travel through the PhantomMountains is difficult. One can take advantage of Blind Man’s Pass which is under the protection of the Qeynos Guard, however the lands surrounding the Pass are inhospitable.

The climate of Antonica is temperate, with cool nights and comfortable days. The winds are generally from the west during the days, bringing sea breezes from across the ColdwindCoast. In the evenings, the wind flows from the east down the slopes of the Phantom Mountains. When the winds are reversed, the air is drier during the day but not uncomfortably so. Rains are generally mild during Growth and Harvest seasons. Overnight frosts are common during Decay, but melt away with the sunrise.

As the temperatures are so temperate, Antonica has a good season of Growth. The fertile lands contain scattered farms with pastures and fields. Trees are mainly deciduous oaks and maples in the valleys, while the hills are crowned by coniferous pines. Beneath the shade of the trees one can find flowers such as violets, Tunare’s breath and dwarf-bearded iris. At night, one might be fortunate enough to find the rare night blooming gnoll’s bane.

Gnolls are the most obvious creature throughout Antonica. Various clans stake out territories for themselves and attempt to establish themselves as the major player in the region. Non-sentient creatures scattered through the green hills include timber wolves, badgers, bears, and klicnik beetles. Bats are known to wander near old ruined structures or amongst the trees. The Coldwind Coast around Antonica abounds with sea life as well, including crabs, pikes and lurkers.

A History of the Centaur

“A History of the Centaur,” by Wiseman Oluran, centaur of the Thundering Steppes — Being a history of the centaurs, as told by one of their own.
In the years after the cataclysms that reshaped Norrath, changes shook the foundations of many societies. Some were forced from ancestral homes, others were reduced to begging and thievery. The centaurs of the Thundering Steppes adapted to the changes in the world in their own way.

A long time ago, when the gods still lived and the moon was whole, the centaurs lived in Karana. Long did we hunt upon the plains of Karana, racing one another in bands several hundred strong! Tails held high, hooves burnished with thin sheets of copper, silver and gold, the centaurs lived as one with the land.

Centaurs have no creation myth, we know we have always existed. Some say that centaurs were formed by the union of a wood elf queen and the god Karana, which is why centaurs always roam, yet love the land so completely. We centaurs feel no such need to explain ourselves; we have always been, and that is enough.

In the long-ago, female centaurs resented the numerous male centaurs that sought to keep them. The males sought to cherish, confine and keep the females from harm. The females appreciated this attention not and battles erupted. To bring peace to the centaurs, Zehadra the Wise decreed that male and female live apart, only to come together at certain times and places. This living arrangement, while not perfect, allowed male and female centaurs to appreciate each other.

Over the years, the Plains of Karana changed, beset by war, by plague, by violent rending of the very earth. At last, the Shattering desolated the lands so loved by the centaur and brought about the ruin of many of our scattered villages.

Centaurs alone did not suffer, of course. All of Norrath was covered in flame and pestilence, bombarded by shards from the once-veiled moon. The violence subsided. The face of Norrath was completely changed. Centaurs returned to what was left of Karana’s plains, brought together by the world’s suffering and loss.

Fortunately, as the Shattering’s destruction lessened and the centaur tribes reunited, there were still bands of female centaurs. Knowing how close they came to civil war, the male and female centaurs agreed to live by the rules imposed by Zehadra all those years past. This is still our way. The females come to the males, then leave again, only to return when they are ready or when they must leave behind a male centaur child.

Still, the destruction of so much we centaurs held valuable was disturbing to both male and female. While we still live mainly apart, our females now live in closer proximity than before. They are strong, courageous and skilled so they do not remain near for protection, but for the surety of knowing that those they love still live. And we are glad to know that they are near, for we love them fiercely in return.

After the Shattering, the Steelhoof centaurs in particular became bitter over the destruction of their homes and forges, turning to raiding as a way of life. No longer do they burnish their hooves with metals simply for the beauty of it, but to use in battle with the hill giants that still live in what is now called the Thundering Steppes.

Alas, though we have been strong and true, no longer does the sound of a thousand hoofbeats shake the grasslands of the plains! The vales are filled with sorrow and our long memories cannot dispell thoughts of the beauty that once filled the lands. And yet, there is hope. For grasses grow, forests return and the gods cannot have abandoned their children. We still have hope.

Know, then, the history of the centaurs of the Thundering Steppes. We are proud and have lineage that reaches back through time before all memory. Do battle with us at your own peril. Blessed be Karana, always.

The Wheel of Time

The fear he had borne those many, many long year, since the end of the Age of Combine, had come to pass: The disapperance of the gods, Yes, for hundreds of years now that had been known as the Lost Age, and of course that name was given by those who knew little to nothing of events during that time.

Of course, few – perhaps none – had lived a life as long and eventfu as this ancient elf called Aataltaal. Now, it seems, he’d outlasted even the gods.

The elf looked up into the bright night sky and watched Luclin’s continuing disintergration. A flaming meteor, no doubt a portion of the sphere of the Maiden of Shadows, soared fast and low just to the south of him. Lightning traced the rock’s path through the swirling clouds, and Aataltaal was certain he felt the wind and heat generated by the meteor.

The destruction of Luclin, named for the goddess who was for countless years beyond the reach of mortals, was a metaphor for the fate of all created races… as well as for the gods themselves. Even if they were not dead, the gods who birthed the races of Norrath and had guided the events of millennia, including the seemingly wanton destruction of all they had so assiduously crafted, were beyond any mortal’s reach. The immortals might as well be dead for all they could do on behalf of those who relied upon them, those who worshipped them. Likewise, there was little to be done by one such as Aataltaal, who sough to slay gods, or at least some – partculary one! – among their number.

As he sat on the Luclin-blasted landscape of the Thundering Steppes, with no other living entity around for league upon league, Aataltaal gave himself over wholly to these reflections. And soon his vision returned.

In the long past age of Combine, Aataltaal had foreseen the fall of that great empire. He tried toward emperor katta, but neither of them understood the meaning of the vision fully enough. Of course, Aataltaal considered that failure to be his own: It was his magic that had crafted the visions, his knowledge that should have deciphered them, and even his plans that had set the fracturing of the Combine into motion. Granted, the plans of those against whom he toiled, General Seru and his fell sorcereress, were a considerable part of the events that brought the empire to its knees.

Ages had passed since then, and yet another was dawning in this time of the broken moon, and still Aataltaal toiled. He had victories to relish and humbling defeats to rue, and still his nemesis Opal Darkbriar dogged him. She thought to have won the day in Freeport, but he had meant the promise he made to the humans there after he saw them safely westward across the Ocean of Tears. That city, like his battle against the gods, might seem lost at present, but the Wheel of Time always rolled round again. The trick was stopping the wheel when it was properly poised for one’s purpose.

Of Course, managing one’s own fate in this way was something that had proved beyond the capability of even the gods (at least as far as Aataltaal knew), but it was an end the elf yet dreamed possible.

He had to believe those dreams. So much else that he had foreseen had come to pass. The citadel floating over the city of freeport. The confiscation of the Books of Knowledge. The shattering of Luclin, and the consequent loss of those first mortals of the Combine Empire who fled there with Katta’s lifeless-yet-living body. The death of Seru he had also foreseen, though one had to take that death on faith since there was no body to be seen. Some things were not as yet entirely clear. Indeed now was a time of great flux. The winners and losers of this age could not yet be clearly foretold – if in the everyday life of Norrath, or the Shattered Lands formerly known as Norrath, things could be judged in such simple terms. The two great cities that survived at this moment in time evidently considered themselves winners, and perhaps righty so.

Qeynos and Freeport, once standing at opposite ends of his beloved Tunaria, more recently called Antonica. As they had once stood geographically, so too did they stand at opposite ends of the spectrum of light and dark – a spectrum of finite morality Aataltaal himself straddled completly, that he was in fact beyond in a way that the earth itself or the constellations were beyond.

The same oracular power that had once led Emperor Katta to seek Aataltaal’s advice in the Lost Age now suggested that the one who might finally bring the Wheel of Time to a safe halt would pass through the land in which he now stood. So the wizened elf sat here, a ragged journal in his hands. It was an ancient tome, and to any lesser mage it would have seemed a great prize. But it had been Aataltaal’s for centuries now, and his own notes were now recorded within. To him it was not an artifact, it was merely a possession.

Ah, but what it led to! – that was an artifact: Tarton’s Wheel.

Long ago Tarton constructed his Wheel so that he might travel the planes. The elves of Takish-Hiz had been the first to make such a journey, having labored for over a century to find the means to enter Innoruuk’s Plane of Hate. Spells for such travel eventually became commonplace among those wizard capable of channeling sufficient mana, but Tarton wanted more, something that might take him beyond the realms where the gods dwelt in semi-real forms that could be defeated but never seemed to die.

Tarton wanted access the the heart of the of the universe itself, where the essences of the gods could be confronted and destroyed altogether. And so, of course, did Aataltaal.

It was unclear even to Aataltaal wheter or not Tarton had actually managed to use his creation for its ultimate purpose. He thought not, for surely there would have been tremendous repercussions for a mortal undertaking such a journey, yet such consequences might well have occured with no mortal being the wiser, for few knew the events or stakes at issue and none could say how, precisely, the effects might be felt.

This kind of shadow-war Aataltaal had now waged for millennia. At nearly every turn he was foiled or brought short, but often the forces thrown against him created ripples in the world at large. He had managed to assemble the ten spokes of Tarton’s Wheel, but then the ripples of causality began to spread. Perhaps his estimation of his importance or the danger he or his quest posed to the gods – at least to Innoruuk – was inflated, but it seemed likely that all of the divinities must fear his success. Perhaps the roadblocks set before him were concidental, but he thought not.

Regardless, it was no coincidence, surely, that very laws and fabric of the universe were altered as soon as Aataltaal possessed and assembled all the pieces of the Wheel. The global destruction had begun to subside the moment he disassembled the artifact and spread the pieces once again.

He wished he believed in happenstance, for then he would not be haunted by the ghosts of the countless thousands who perished in the catastrophes that had rocked Norrath. Now he had that blood on his hands, just as he was haunted by specter of the Combine Empire and the restless souls of those elves transformed by the Prince of Hate when the rescue of their sovereigns went away.

So it was that here, in the lifeless waste of the Thundering Steppes, Aataltaal drafted the final portion of this journal. The writings concerned the first piece of Tarton’s Wheel, called Azia. Once he had finished, he would place the journal in the magically locked chest, which he would then send secretly to the docks of the Steppes. There, only an individual with one of two proper keys – a pair of inconspious emerald Aataltaal would sell, one each, to vendors within the two sities of the former Tunaria – could recover the journal.

With the journal in hand, an individual might begin his own cycle through time, If Aataltaal’s perceptions of his visions were accurate this time, then the one destined to find his journal might just sneak beneath the notice of the gods, and use the Wheel succesfully without arousing the kind of wholesale destruction Aataltaal himself had caused.

And that’s why it seemed so reasonable to leave a riddle regarding the ancient city called Wielle for last, because Freeport was where change needed to begin.