What grows from the ash
Smoke rising over rolling hills, the crackle of a blazing fire just beyond the narrow river, horses thundering through lush grasses and over ash-fed soil. The Grass is a land of destruction and renewal, reminding us what we can become when that which no longer serves us is burned away. Its magic is subtle and sublime, tucked away in the caravans of the , threaded through their songs, packed lightly into the topsoil.
Rising from the AshesThe western foothills of the Tels take their time flattening out and roll almost all the way to the coast, stopped only by the . The soil is rocky and poor, and scrub grasses comprise the bulk of vegetation that can grow here. Long before sent settlers into the region, giantkin unconnected from their superiors in the Ordning lived off the open grasslands. Like the Balar, the people who would become the deferred to the giantkin and built communities together.
They live in yurts crafted from Southwood lumber and passed down through generations to reduce logging drains. The yurts are both collapsible and adjustable, folding away to be packed on horses for tavel and accommodating of any height when in use. Their patchwork silhouettes dotting the open plain are an iconic sight of the Grass.
Field Guide to The GrassThe Grass hosts mainly varieties of feathergrass and keskgrass, with a few lyme grasses that provide food for the grazing mammels. Wildflowers such as the Scrubland thistle, small-flowered winter-cress, and ash yellowcress provide food for pollinators. The soil is not dense enough to support much beyond the grasses and small flowers, but several avian species have adapted to building ground nests and—in the case of some eagles—cliff-face nests in the few exposed rock faces across the steppe.
Gold neck and scrub pheasants, Tangran partridges, black-billed capercaillies, black grouse, bearded vultures, and southern steppe eagles can be found nesting amid the grasses. Steppe lemmings, Scrubland hedgehogs, grey marmots, feathered foxes, steppe wolves, Tangran gazelles, toad-head agamas, stepperunners, ash boas, rassy snakes, and Tangran vipers all make their homes among the brush, while the giant nag-kesk have been almost entirely domesticated by the. The Scrubland Coldblood occupies a unique space in that certain bloodlines have been domesticated, but their wild cousins still roam free and are hunted sparingly by the more giantish .
Streams and small ponds hold a few species of trout and salamander, grassy graylings, lenoks, taimens, steppe pike, yellow perch, and Tangran grass frogs. Ashy damselflies, scarce coppers, ash blues, bombus bees, emerald steppe beetles, and clearwater diving beetles represent the insect world in this region.
Bulettes were introduced as an experiment and are considered an invasive species, causing particular problems with thecaverns close to the surface. Fortunately, their numbers are dwindling and they are no longer affecting the native ankheg populations, who thrive in the post-burn soil and naturally burrow with the grain of the .
The Vastness of the ExpanseThe size of Balarkavi Range produce is well-known throughout , and it's often cited as evidence to support hypotheses about the location of the giantlands. Less often, though just as effectively, the subtler magic of the Grass is referenced. The nag-kesk and oversized Scrubland Coldblood are larger than they ought to be, but the sheer size of the steppe itself is almost supernatural. To stand amid the hills and see nothing but an ocean of grass surrounding you is to know that the world was not made for one as small as you.
The Grass TravellerThe Grass is not a tourist locale, and the nomadic folks who live amid the grasses are not equipped with the amenities the casual traveller might come to expect from certain destinations. Certainly the traveller will find traders, crafters, and artisans of all kinds, including those belonging to the Mythalenairran trade network wherever entrances to the are found. But money only goes so far for the people of this steppe. The needful traveller will be prepared to barter goods, services, knowledge, or other aid. That said, the are accustomed to students, researchers, surveyors, and historians visiting the region and are likely to provide a blanket near the fire to anyone willing to share a song. Wrongdoers will find themselves subject to the practices of whatever tribe they've wronged.
The only roads through the Grass are the dirt tracks that serve as fire breaks for the regular controlled burns. The Grass traveller is comfortable walking, or else has a mount. It is imperative that mounts have brightly colored dress or barding, or some other obvious indicator of domesticity; giantkin horse hunting traditions are still practiced in the region.
Because the conditions for safe burns are specific and narrow, the conscientious traveller will not only defer to , but actively seek out locals for the most current wildfire information, controlled and otherwise. It is advisable to be familiar with wildfire safety practices, as natural grass fires do occur and can be deadly for the unprepared.