Tales from the Inner Sea
The Lonely Steppes
A vast area of steppe and plain that separates Voya and the Altai Clans from the northerly borders of the current Armavine Border, this area stretches thousands of kilometres and offers a so far useful buffer between Voya and the Altai in the west and the Armavines in the east. It used to be under the nominal sphere of Armavine influence but in the years since the Great Civil War it has been left alone, as maintaining any kind of civilized presence is far too costly for an empire now committed to stability and consolidation over expansion (at least in the Inner Sea region).
The problems stem from the stubborn refusal of any kind of crop to grow other than the native grass which is suitable for the herds of antelope and sable that roam the plains, but not for the consumption of cattle or livestock let alone horses. This factor was a deciding thing in the cessation of hostilities between the Altai and the Armavines some hundreds of years previously; the logistics of proper war were beyond either side.
There are rivers, streams and brooks that crisscross this vast area, though none big enough to support serious river trade. Small tribes and clans of nomads loosely called the Keerlan make this land home, and are known to be shy, unwelcoming to outsiders and very conservative in matters of their shamanistic religion and simple way of life. It is a known fact that a Keerlan hunter can be within 10 feet of an outlander and be quite unseen due to their incredible feats of fieldcraft and use of the long grasses and terrain. The biggest social unit the hunter gatherers tend to have are small tribes, seldom more than 100 souls. They occasionally gather into larger concentrations for religious and infrequent inter tribe trade meets that allow marriage across the tribes and sharing of goods. The Nomadic elements of the Keerlan ride large Sable antelope and have good relations with their more primitive brethren, having the same mythologies and shared traits. The Keerlan Nomads herd the Sable as a riding animal and also use a herd animal called a Kerbuck (a small deer or antelope) as their main food supply. Other wild antelope, deer and goats called blackbeards are hunted as and when needed.
Little else is known about the Keerlan as they do not open up to any outsiders and are prone to fleeing if possible when they sight them, unless they are unable to (due to a more mobile foe or if they are at camp). If they are unable to flee they try to discourage contact or approach, resorting to violence only if the interloper proves belligerent or continues to bother them. They very rarely take prisoners, instead staking our captives to the plains and leaving them.
They fear outlanders, having seen wars and battles between the Altai and Armavines in the past. These memories are now part of their folklore and do not paint outlanders in any kind of good light at all.
In modern times the regular trade caravan between the Altai territories and the Armavines are the only outlanders who traverse the Lonely Steppes, as Padiha and even Voya tend to use maritime trade as a more cost effective link to the Empire. (The Altai coast is also used for trade but has to use the Calvians as a go between due to Port Caros)