|Council of witches
Yak-herding nomads called the Thons wander the steppes of Thontaran astride their stocky work horses. Travelers who encounter their simple clans can be led to believe that haggard pastoral simplicity was all that ever existed here - until they run into the ruins of great obelisks that once thrummed with terrible power.
For modern Thontaran is actually what remains of Lonrath, an advanced magical realm that once spanned the peninsula, but has long since collapsed for unknown reasons. Its eponymous capital, the ruined city of Lonrath, is inhabited by a cabal of witches, whose vision guides all the tribes. It is unknown if these witches are mortal women or otherworldly monsters in human guise. They make use of the ruins' ancient artifacts to assert their power and preserve their history to unknown ends.
Very little is known about the area's history. Architectural relics suggest that most of the great peninsula was once united under one banner and eventually suffered a thorough magical devastation. Here and there, massive cracks in the earth make it seem that pseudo-natural disasters were involved. Occasional wild blizzards and rare magical anomalies lend evidence to this theory.
The Thons can recall much about their individual clans, including who married and begat whom, stretching back for many generations. But even they remain ignorant of the more distant past or how they came to their current lifestyle. It is said that the witches might know the truth but few mortals had ever seen a true Witch of Lonrath, let alone gotten her to divulge her secrets.
A handful of magical scholars who examined the remains of local megaliths posited a theory that Lonrath's magic was geomancy: controlling the ley lines of the world.
Most of Thontaran is a cool steppe, covered in matted grasses, grazed upon by shaggy herds of yak, sheep and horses. The western-most edge gets hilly, with stretches of rugged pine barrens and occasional deciduous woods. To the east, the terrain is occasionally segmented by deep chasms that look like they were formed by earthquakes. Rainwater and snowmelt fills some of these chasms, providing stopping points for the tribes to rehydrate themselves and their animals.
Government and Society
The Steppe Thon clans are largely patriarchal, each guided by a Predominant Family, whose fathers are often the wisest and most experienced members of that tribe. Regardless, when the Lonrath witches occasionally appear to them in person or through familiars or spiritual intermediaries, all the clan members listen and follow. The witches rarely command - they are content to suggest, guide and insinuate. It's even rarer for the witches to wield hard power in the form of curses or direct magic but the times that has happened are always fresh in everyone's memory.
The clans have designated times and places for trading with one another and a series of rules forbidding hostilities during such trading summits.
The Hill Thons are more fierce, xenophobic and aggressive. While each hill clan has a male leader, it is understood that they derive their power from the witches that live among them and serve as the true authorities. These witches are much more hands-on in the clans' daily operations and more frequently use their magic to aid or harm. While the Hill Thons' witches are strong, they do not have full access to the mysteries of Lonrath and may be far less powerful than their counterparts from the ruins on the steppes.
The Thons utilize a loosely-organized 'barbarian raider' fighting style, favoring spears and blunt-force weapons. Good blades are rare among them. Occasional hero-leaders have wielded relic-weapons of Old Lonrath that gave them powers beyond the mortal realm but took a toll on their physical appearance.
The Lonrath witches are occasionally known for having male bodyguards called Ghostwalkers, whom they imbue with special powers like enhanced physical prowess, spiritual links and other more mysterious talents. These Ghostwalkers are as secretive as their matrons, and are universally respected or feared among the tribes.
The tribes practice a form of animism - everything has its own spiritual energy, that's loosely associated with the spiritual energies of everything else. They also revere the witches as Wise Women who are nearer to the mysteries of the universe in every way.
The tribes speak Thon, a language that can be both guttural and sonorous. It has no hard rules for the order of subject, verb, object. Nonetheless, a great deal of subtle nuance can be conveyed through clever sentence structure. The witches are masters of using this to full diplomatic effect.