The Yerek Steppes
The Yerek Steppes are home to the Yerek people, a semi-nomadic group that moves north, closer to the Scorched Lands, in the winter and the southern border of the the steppes, near the sea, in the summer. They spend the intervening months in the capital of Talisburg. This town is mostly for the Grandmother and those Matrons who cannot make the seasonal journey every year.
A major grassland, the Yerek Steppes run from the southern border of the Scorched Lands in the north to the sea in the south. The southern end of the Steppes are more abundant with trees and shrubs due to the higher humidity from the water that is vaporized as the Shard of the Sun passes overhead.
Year -100,000 (estimated): All creatures are birthed from Musta’Vohi, free to wander as they want. The Yerek settle the steppes between the sea and the swamp.
Year -1100: Incursion of magna graphia from the Scorched Lands
Year -5: The various clans of the Yerek gather in peace and end all infighting
Year 0: The city of Purus-thal is founded for Tani, the first Grandmother.
Year 347: Wheat Sickness spreads quickly, killing roughly half of the Yerek population before healers and shamans are able to recover and treat the illness
Year 750: Qathindli forms Treeland
Year 1298: Triplet girls are born, the first time multiple children have been born in recorded history, creating an issue of who becomes Grandmother, if all three survive.
The word “Yerek” means “wanderers” in the Yerek language, which was taught to the first Yerek by Musta’Vohi. Yerek speakers use the word “yerekai” to mean “that (specific) wanderer.” Yerek names tend to be short, as to allow for quicker communication. There are no surnames in the Yerek language. Nicknames are discouraged, as these are seen as an insult to the names that are thought to be given to by child’s mother by Musta’vohi herself. This does not prevent some Yerek from acquiring nicknames from non-Yerek. These are never used by other Yerek, only with non-Yerek.
Men always put the name of the Grandmother that they were born under before their own name. A man born in the current generation, under Grandmother Thielda, might have the name “Thielda Anbol” and would be addressed as “Anbol.” Women, being divine, do not follow this practice.
Gans, Elbeg, Ochir (Oh-keer), Muuno (Moon-oh), Anbol, Khbat (Kuh-baht)
Bolor, Tset (Zhet), Gerel, Tant, Jargal, Nech (Netch)
Alignment and Type Neutral Evil small town
Modifiers Corruption -1, Crime -1, Law +1, Lore +3, Society -2
Qualities Insular, Pious
Population 30000 (98% Yerek (human), 2% dweorg)
Notable NPCs Grandmother Theilda (NE, female, Yerek (human), Adept 10)
Base Value/Purchase Limit 1,000 gp/5,000 gp
Minor Items 3d4; Medium Items 1d6; Major Items –
The Yerek are a semi-nomadic people who travel north in the winter, to be nearer the Scorched Lands and the heat they provide, and to the south in the summer, to allow the sea to control the temperature.
The only major permanent settlement is Purus-thal.
The traveling from north to south and back again is an important milestone in the life of a Yerek child. Boys are girls are considered adults when they can make the journey without help from any other members of the tribe. Until that point, all children are raised in Purus-thal under the watchful eye of the Mothers of the tribe.
Upon returning from their first journey, the newly anointed adults are the guests of honor at a large feast in Purus-thal. Once the feast is finished, both the boys and girls are sent on their final test to prove adulthood. With no weapons and only a small sack with a little food and what the child deems necessary, they are sent into the wilds of the steppes. Their objective is to return with enough meat to replace what the feast has consumed or more, if possible. They have one week to complete this task.
As the children are taught to make knives from flint and stone, the most successful return from their hunt bearing meat and skins and carrying knives made with handles from the antlers of the deer of the northern steppes or more formidable weapons made from the antlers of the elk and moose that live in the southern grasslands.
Those that return with nothing or very little are relegated back to the status of child and are required to make the walk again before they take part in the hunt.
Occasionally, a child does not return at all. In these cases, there is a twenty-four hour vigil held by the adults of the tribe. They are mourned and an offering of food and gifts are given to the parents, who are relieved of any tribal duties for one week.
Other than the walk, the most recognized part of Yerek society is that the women of the tribe, down to the smallest infant girl, is considered a divine gift from Musta’Vohi. While men and women work side by side as equals, any serious decisions are made by the eldest female in attendance. If there is no female of age to have children present, the eldest male will make decisions.
This does not mean that women in the tribe are treated as royalty. The opposite, in fact. They work just as hard as their male counterparts in all aspects of life. This is because the Yerek figured out long ago that everyone needed to work together if their people were to survive.
Yerek children are taught survival skills at a young age. They learn things like how to hunt, farm, and live off of the land as well as how to make various weapons.
Ariun Uudor is celebrated during the first week of each month. A single day of the week is set aside for a festive celebration honoring Musta’Vohi. Songs are sung and tales are told. Thanks are given for blessed unions and healthy children, while those who have had less than beautiful marriages still offer her supplication, so that they may have another chance to find love.
Every male Yerek must also learn the gazar. These are capering dances performed while the dinner meal of Ariun Uudor is being prepared. Everyone changes their clothing into a bright, colorful outfit which is designed to present liveliness against the coming darkness. During the gazar, the women of the tribe sing the duu, songs of praise to Musta’Vohi, thanking her for their continued prosperity and to pray for easy, painless pregnancies, and healthy children.
The Yerek people are, on average, short and stocky, looking like tall Dwarves to some. Occasionally, dweorg are found in Purus-thal as they travel from one place to another, which adds to the confusion. They Dwarves and the Yerek share many similarities in both attitude and outlook. While the Yerek are not a pessimistic people, the overwhelming attitude is “what will be, will be.”
Both men and women of the Yerek stand approximately 5 feet tall, with slight various between 4’10” and 5’3″. Never in recorded Yerek history has there been anyone over 5’6″. The men usually weigh between 150 and 175 pound with the women being only slightly lighter.
The men generally keep their hair short, usually, while the women usually wear theirs long although the opposite is seen as well . Hair is almost uniformly black, although very dark brown is not uncommon. Younger Yerek, especially those making their first walk, tend to have lighter hair due to sun exposure. Some women dye their hair with the juices of fruits, such as the anar for red or the ners for blue.
Brown eyes are the most common color. Dark blue and dark green eyes make up about ¼ of the Yerek population, while lighter colors are almost nonexistent.
On the walk from end to end of the steppes, a large variety of ox called an uhker (oo-ker) is used to carry belongings. In general, these oxen are well-behaved, but do not tolerate cruelty for very long. Standing just over five feet tall at the shoulder, almost eight feet long, and weighing close to a full ton, these animals are respected by their drivers. Those that try to bully an uhker are often left in a bloody heap with broken bones.
The uhker are also used in the western steppes near the border with the Vast Swamp. It is here that the Yerek grow crops to supplement their meat- and wheat-heavy diet. Uhker break apart the thick, heavy mud that make up the fields and their dung is used as fertilizer. In this area, wheat as well as thin-skinned peppers and a root vegetable called khunsni grow.
The khunsni grows deep in the waterlogged soil while leaves float a few inches above on the waters surface. It can be eaten raw or chopped up and used in soup. It is sweet and crunchy when raw and adds a nutty flavor to soups.
The pepper, called chinju, are bright green or red and spicy, but not overwhelming. They are also used in soups and for giving flavor to a variety of dried meats. Chinju can also be dried for storage and later use.
Those that tend the fields tend to carry scythes or sickles, but clerics who help with the harvest use spiked chains altered to have small cutting blades. This allows them to harvest, but also to praise Musta’Vohi while using her favored weapon.
Given the spiciness of the chinju, the Yerek have found a way to use it as a deterrent to animals and the occasional person.
The bladder of a dead uhker is taken and treated to keep the material supple. The juices and seeds of the chinju are ground up and dried. This is mixed together with water from the farmland in the west and then placed inside the bladder.
A leaf from the khunsni is placed over the mouth of the bladder and has small holes poked through it.
To use this device, called a shursh, the bladder is placed on the ground and stomped on or is smashed between the hands. The mixture of water and dried pepper is forced through the holes in the leaf, creating a mist that envelops a 10 foot cone in front of the bladder. The mist causing irritation to the eyes and sinuses, effectively blinding the opponent.
Because walking the length of a country is hard on the feet, the Yerek needed some way to protect their feet on the journey. To do so, they have used the stomachs of uhker for adults or stomachs of small animals for children. They are filled with a thin later of a water and wheat dust mixture, making the water more viscous, and the stomach is sealed. The stomachs are then placed into the shoes to make walking more comfortable, as the syrupy fluid shifts back and forth with each step. A permanent mending spell is applied to these stomachs, preventing them from wearing out.
Arcane magic is virtually absent from the Yerek Steppes, but divine magic is present. This ability is generally found in the druids and rangers who look after the fields of the western steppes as they attempt to prevent wheat sickness from reappearing.
Clerics follow Musta’Vohi and their role depends on how they decide to worship. If they are trained to be healers, they can be found either in the western swamps or in Purus-thal to aid with childbirth. Protectors journey with the tribesmen who walk the land.
During Ariun Uudor, the clerics of that use Musta’Vohi’s ability to influence others to attempt to bring unmarried tribe members together.
The main feature of the Yerek Steppes are the large swaths of grasslands that dominate the middle section of the country. These grasslands begin in the north, near the Scorched Lands with a hardy grass that has evolved to combat the heat that is generated when the Shard of the Sun passes overhead. This grass is called kuchtei, which means “strong” in Yerek. The kuchtei extends approximately five miles from the Scorched Lands border.
As the land descends from the north the grasses become more temperate, with longer stalks. During the day, as the Shard of the Sun approaches in its orbit and after it passes by, a strong, hot wind blows hard through the kuchtei and into what is known as the sahlsdeg, or wavy grass. The motion of the grasses in the wind are mesmerizing to watch, especially as the heat from the passing Shard causes ripples in the air above the grass. This effect occurs within a couple of miles from the kuchtei. There is no mechanical effect in the game due to this phenomena, but the Yerek will sometimes pause in their walking and face the hot wind, allowing it to blow over them.
The center of the country is the most agriculturally diverse, with Treeland to the east and waters from the Vast Swamp to the west providing opportunity to irrigate the land. Almost directly in the middle of the Steppes is Purus-thal, home of the Grandmother and any Mothers than can no longer make the trek from north to south and back.
The center of Purus-thal is the ger, a type of portable tent, that was carried by Tani, the First Grandmother. When she could no longer make the journey, she set up her tent, proclaiming it to be Purus-thal. Since that time, each Grandmother adds her own ger to the area surround the dwellings of the previous Mothers and Grandmothers. There are more structures than people who live in Purus-thal, which the Yerek are willing to rent out to travelers. The young women of the tribe who are due to give birth will stay in Purus-thal on their next passing and will inhabit Tani’s ger during the birthing process.
All babies born to the Yerek are raised in Purus-thal by a collaborative of all birth mothers, the Mothers, and the Grandmother
To the west, where the Steppes meet the Vast Swamp, is where most of the agriculture in the Yerek Steppes originates. This area is always overseen by a shaman or a nature oriented cleric so that any recurrence of wheat sickness can be determined quickly.
To the northeast of the country, where Treeland begins to recede but before the land dries up at the Scorched Lands, there is a surprising number of fruit trees, including fig and an intensely aromatic species of lime tree that the Yerek call “idemkhii.” The entire area has a strong scent of idemkhii and lavender, which dots this fragrant landscape in clusters of small shrubs. There are other fruit trees, grasses, and herbs in this area, but the idemkhii and lavender are the most prevalent.
The eastern edge of the Yerek Steppes is known as Treeland.
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Population: Approximately five hundred thousand (88.5% primates (non-human), 10% other animals, .5% human)
Authority Figure: Qathindli
Treeland was founded roughly one hundred fifty years ago by Qathindli, demigoddess of monkeys. It is ostensibly a part of the Yerek Steppes, but Qathindli has claimed it for the monkeys. The Yerek have a small population that has more than enough land, so they haven’t disputed Qathindli’s claim.
Treeland has very little history to speak of, being a young country and no one seeing any point of invading a small forest.
With just over one million square miles of land, almost entire covered in trees and shrubs, Treeland has plentiful fruits, most of which are eaten by the primate dwellers. The rest are given to the Yerek as a peace offering. The Yerek think that one fruit in particular, the forhoral, is a potent aphrodisiac.
The few humans that live in Treeland stay on the western edge of the forest. Qathindli has granted them a small parcel of land which they are using to grow vegetables to trade with Qathindli in exchange for living in the forest. At first, the humans were surprised to be visited by a talking monkey the size of a child’s doll, but they soon took her small form to be cute and almost irrelevant until she began arriving in their part of Treeland accompanied by several gorillas.
Grandmother Theilda (NE, Female Yerek (human), Adept 10) – Barely sixty years old, but her body has been worn down by the constant migration of her people. Her eyes and mind are still sharp, however. She interprets dreams given to her by Musta’Vohi and dispenses wisdom to the Mothers, who then spread it to the people.
Damon (CG Male Klavek (human) Cleric 5) – Tall and thin, Damon is a former cleric of the God of War, but tired of the relentless conflict that the order sought and so left the Klavek empire, landing in Treeland. After an accidental meeting with Qathindli, he found her philosophy of living within nature to be refreshing and began to follow her example.
Titles: God Mother, Sublime Concubine
Symbol: A goat’s head painted black
Alignment: Neutral Evil
Portfolio: Birth, Health, Motherhood, Lust, Pregnancy
Domains: Charm, Darkness, Healing, Protection
Favored Weapon: spiked chain
According to the Yerek, Musta’Vohi created the universe from the sheer will to reproduce. Once she made the universe, she created light and dark, warm and cold, up and down, and every planet, person, animal, and plant. They say that she birthed the other gods as well. Even now, she continues to produce new lifeforms.
Musta’Vohi appears as a stout matronly woman with graying blonde hair who always appears slightly tired, but her eyes are always filled with lust. She wears a simple brown shawl over a simple brown cloak that has the hood pulled back. Her feet are bare and her hands are always opening and closing, as if trying to grasp something.
There is no physical church of Musta’Vohi. Any place where a man and woman couple together is considered a holy place during the actual coupling, but loses this status when the pair separate.
Worshippers and Clergy
All of the Yerek worship Musta’Vohi, but only women are considered “clergy” because of their ability to become pregnant. A young woman is inducted into the clergy when she can bear children and earns the title “Daughter.” Women who have already given birth have the title “Mother.” Women who are no longer able to give birth are called “Matron,” and the oldest woman in the tribe has the title “Grandmother.”
During each new moon, the newest Daughter is anointed in purified oils and sacrifices the most recently born male child to Musta’Vohi. After this ceremony, all Daughters are taken to the Grandmother to learn the ways of pregnancy and motherhood.
None. All of Musta’Vohl’s teachings are passed down verbally from Grandmother to the Matrons.
Titles The Monkey Primeval, The Unsullied
Alignment Chaotic Neutral
Symbol A monkey face with a painted boomerang for a smiling mouth (only used by humans)
Portfolio Nature, Primates, Wilderness
Worshippers Monkeys and disparate or relocated people from the Vast Swamp or the Yerek Steppes
Domains Animal, Chaos, Plant, Protection
Favored Weapon Boomerang
Two hundred years ago, Mentane Flamebearer, a human cleric of a best-forgotten god, and Golar, his half-orc monk bodyguard landed on the eastern shore of what would become Treeland. The reason for the visit was that Mentane thought he had found a way to become a god. His hypothesis was that if he could instill the magical essences that he acquired daily into the same place for a long period of time, then the release of that pent up energy into himself would push him past the boundary of mortality and into the realm of godhood. Mentane chose a small fuzzy fruit with a green interior, called a forhoral, which grew on a vine as his receptacle of power.
As they settled on the eastern edge of the forest Golar began to notice the large numbers of primates in the forest. Ignoring them, Mentane had Golar find a piece of wood to allow the vines of the fruit grow upward.
For the next year, every morning, Mentane would slowly and carefully direct his magical energies into the seed that he had planted. Golar, not being needed, wandered the forest. Some of the primates took interest in the two for a while, but seeing that they were no immediate threat, they were content to ignore the two.
After about a month, one small chimpanzee began following the Golar as he explored what would become known as Treeland. He began to call her “Qathindli,” which translated roughly to “small one” in his local Orcish dialect. He would call and wave to her every morning and she would chatter back at him.
Something surprising that Golar noticed was that Qathindli would watch him when he went through his morning exercises. She would sit on a branch and stare at him while he moved in slow, deliberate patterns. She had taken a special liking to his three-bladed boomerang. When she wasn’t watching him practice, he would almost always find her at his pack, holding the throwing weapon. Eventually, he carved her her own two-bladed boomerang and placed a leather strap around the two ends. She took it with her everywhere.
As the year progressed, Mentane’s fruit began to grow, becoming larger than usual for this type of fruit. The vine grew quickly up the post and one year to the day of its planting, Mentane emerged from his tent, ready to become a god.
His forhoral fruit was gone. In its place, he found Qathindli sitting on the forest floor, holding the remains of the forhoral fruit.
She sat and stared, her monkey mind not comprehending what was happening to her.
Mentane began ranting and raving about the amount of effort he put into the project and his loss to a monkey. In his rage, he was preparing to utterly destroy Qathindli when she turned her head toward him and shocked both he and Golar.
“What is happening to me?” she asked loudly and haltingly.
All three stared at each other for a moment before Qathindli screeched and ran off into the forest.
A few days later, Mentane packed up his belongings and stowed them on the boat. He was going to make his way back to the Klavek Kingdom. Golar said that he was going to stay in the forest for the time being. They bade each other farewell and Golar watched Mentane sail off into the sunrise.
Golar found Qathindli her near her tribe of monkeys. She was speaking quickly and erratically, words from every language spilling out of her mouth. Golar understood words from a few languages and recognized several more. The other monkeys were frightened of her.
Using food, Golar tempted Qathindli out of her tree and through a long and arduous process, explained what Mentane had done with the forhoral fruit and that his best guess was that when she had eaten the fruit, she had absorbed all of the magical power invested in it and that she had become more than a monkey.
Over the course of the next six months, Golar taught Qathindli control thanks to his martial training. While she did learn how to focus her newly found thoughts, she was still a monkey inside. Her train of thought often derailed into a conglomeration of words from different languages, which made it difficult for Golar to understand.
The change in her standing among the primates came when, as she and Golar were training in a small clearing, a wild boar broke through the undergrowth and charged at Golar. Though the battle was brief, it was also incredibly violent. In the end, the boar lay dead and Golar had numerous cuts and slashes from the boar’s wicked tusks. Qathindli rushed out from her hiding place and chattered at Golar in numerous languages as he started to succumb to his injuries. As he tumbled to the ground, Qathindli placed her hands on him and with a visible light, poured healing energy into Golar.
The forest around the two of them went silent as the watchful monkeys around them looked on and saw the power that Qathindli now possessed.
While she may not have been a demigoddess in the classical sense, Qathindli has eclipsed monkeyhood and is something more. She had decided to be the protector of Treeland, which she named herself. When she accepted that mantle, she became a demigoddess.
Qathindli can change her appearance to that of any primate in existence, except human. Her preferred form is a pygmy monkey that stands roughly six inches tall, with bright red hair. This form seems to cause less violent reactions in those that she speaks with than one of her larger shapes.
Each of her forms has a face that is like the race she is interacting with than it is monkey-like.
Even though she doesn’t understand it, the humans that live in Treeland worship Qathindli. The services are held outside usually around midday, but it varies due to the weather.
The leader of the humans, Damon, teaches that the people of his tribe should live like the monkeys: in harmony with nature. Because of his worship, Qathindli grants him spells, even if she doesn’t know how she does that.
Worshippers & Clergy
Qathindi’s worshippers are all of the humans that live in Treeland, under the guidance of her only clergy member, Damon. One of the titles Damon has given Qathindli is “The Unsullied.” He believes that she is holy because she has never been human, and therefore is above us and unsullied by her nature.
Qathindli has no holy text to speak of. As her knowledge of language grows, she has had Golar and Damon try to teach her how to write. The two main problems are that monkey hands are not designed for holding human writing utensils and Qathindli still has the mind of a monkey, so any given sentence contains multiple languages and bad translations, making them impossible to read. Damon still collects these “writings” and keeps them safe.