The Umahrra is a giant tree known for its smooth bark, dark brown in color, that is highly poisonous, and twisting trunks that are adorned with long vines of silver leaves. Easily recognized as part of the weeping willow family of trees this graceful giant stands close to two hundred feet tall with a branch spread of at least that far making it one of the largest trees on Asheshal. The trees have become symbols of stories for many cultures and species, and the forest in which they grow has become a holy sight to religions thanks to their unique beauty and mystery. Most notablyand Ferianism. The only tree known on Asheshal to naturally grow with silver leaves this tree is a wonder of beauty any time of the year as it never fully sheds those leaves, but most especially in the late summer when it blooms with vivid purple and blue flowers in great vines which cascade from the branches. Though it is a stunning thing to look upon the true mystery is that of the poison contained within the bark of the tree and the air of the makesa powers which permeate the air.
BiologyGrowthrate and Stages
While most willows are fast-growing trees, taking about three years for a youthful tree to become well-situated, after which it can easily grow eight feet per year. A Umahrra is considered a slow-growing tree and can take about ten years to become well-situated, after which they grow roughly a foot or two a year. Starting out as seeds fertilized by the pollen of the tree's late summer flowers which turn into translucent paper lantern-like seed pods that detach from the branch and float on the winds in late fall. Taking root in the fallen foliage of winter to sprout the following spring. As the tree grows it fights for enough light to grow beyond the confines of the lower underbrush. Eventually, the green stem gains the hardened smooth bark of the elder trees which even as young trees is highly poisonous preventing preditors and other animals from tampering with the fledgling life if they are not adapted to it. It's estimated that the chances of a seed growing to maturity is fairly small.
When the Umahrra is within the last hundred years of life their leaves take on a slightly yellowed hue to them which grows steadily more golden until the final short years of their life. Additionally, the flower production of older trees is noticeably less to almost none. These ancient golden trees are safeguarded until it is determined by ancient grove keepers that it is in fact dead. The dead Umahrra can be purchased by wealthy individuals and used for everything from exotic wood floors to sculptures and eating wear.
Seasonal CyclesLasthearth Spring
As the climate shifts and becomes warmer the Umahrra will shed the most leaves. The winter months are taxing on the tree's ability to gather enough light as well as fighting the strain of the heavy snow and ice on its branches but the advantage of keeping leaves through the harsh winter means that a new flush of explosive growth can take place in the spring. New leaves push the old ones from the vines as well as the tree growing in height, width, and vine length. When a tree reaches full size any additional growth appears in branch canopy reach as well as length to their vines.Waxingsun and Sundance Summer
In the later parts of Sundance the tree blossoms with immaculate blue-purple or purple-pink flowers that have five petals and an array of long black stamen tipped with tiny anther which are yellow. The flowers give off a unique fragrance that is considered soft and feminine. It attracts all manner of insects to spread pollen to other trees through the course of the warm months.Harvest and Firsthearth Fall
As the climate shifts into cooler temperatures, the tree will close up their flower petals to create a closed environment around a seed that was germinated through the insects' spread of pollen in summer. As the cold continues to grow these flower petals decay and lose their coloring creating a lantern-like structure around the seed in a web of connecting fibers. In the high winds of Firsthearth, the seeds detach from the tree and are carried by the wind to new locations.Wainingsun, Moondance, Newstar Winter
The Umahrra is one of a few leafy trees that do not shed their leaves in winter. This strange phenomenon is through to be a result of their unique coloration and structure of leaves. The thin silver leaves are waxy like the needles of evergreens affording them protection from the harsh cold. The fibers within the branches and vines of this species of willow are exceptionally strong and it would have to be considering that in the winter months snow and ice cling to the leaves in long trails of pure ice which threaten to snap the base branches of the tree or even uproot it completely.
Ecology and HabitatUxnir's Garden; Lake Virean
The ecosystem created around Lake Virean is dominated by the Umahrra in a forest known locally as Uxnir's Garden. The high levels of chemicals within their bark have caused the animals and other plant life in the area to develop in highly specialized ways to combat the toxic levels of chemicals which are present not just in the bark of the trees but in nearby plants and even the soil. When it comes to the other foliage in the forest most range in color from bright reds to dusky golden yellows with flowers of different colors but most are low-light plants that can thrive in the reflected light off the silver leaves of the giant willows. Herbivore mammals have developed a high threshold for the toxins and their internal make-up includes enlarged or multiple livers and kidneys as well as long digestive periods to breakdown any bark that is consumed or other plants which soak up the toxins from the ground. The most notable of these creatures is the beautiful Sepha. This small mammal has a pelt of spotted grey and red fur that is smooth all over the body. Four slender legs supported by four-toed hooves carry the frail frame which stands no taller than four foot high at the withers. Both males and females have branching antlers that resemble the twisted branches of the Umahrra trees which sweep back from the head so far that when observed at rest the antlers dip below the line of the back on either side of the body. These Sepha are rare animals known to eat the bark of the Umahrra trees in harsh winters which is made possible by no less than two livers and six stomach chambers that ferment the bark to pass the toxins out of its system.
Birds have developed a particular awareness of the bark and instead strip the tree of the leaves to make nests and seeds to eat though large birds are not often seen among the trees. A variety of small seed birds, as well as large winged fruit birds like the Hook-Beaked Maktal, make the canopy their home filling the forest with all manner of a natural song. A wide array of flying insects such as butterflies, bees, moths, and wasps have developed within the ecosystem to feed on the nectar of the unique tree and it is estimated that the forest holds over a thousand different kinds of butterflies alone. One of which includes the massive Imar butterfly which is so large that an adult male smooth-coated boralid could have a single butterfly land on their chest and the wings would cover the body shoulder edge to shoulder edge with ease. The wings are a pure white color fading to soft indigo at the tips with patterns wrought in liquid gold.
A number of preditors inhabit the forest feasting on insects, rodents, fish, birds, and the like the apex predator of this forest is the Rrynx. A feline predator with an almost bearded appearance with long fur trailing down from the chin almost touching the ground and distinctive tufted ears that is at home in the forest as a hunter even in the deepest of snows. With massive paws, short bowed legs, and a long, sturdy body not unlike a snake, the predator is a distinctive sight. The Rrynx is an ambush hunter, stalking above in branches or by pouncing several feet right up into the air and crashing down on unsuspecting prey hidden under snow and underbrush. Its thick pelt patterned in spots and stripes which help it to hide in the forest most adeptly changes color with the season. In the spring and summer months, it is black with bright markings of red and yellow to match the underbrush of the forest, but in winter it sheds the summer coat for one of silvery grey with blue and black markings. Three long tails bushy with luxurious fur assist in balancing as well as muffling the movements of the Rynx among the forest and four bright golden eyes, two set to the front of the head and two set more to the side give the Rrynx amazing vision. It's highly territorial and has been known to attack anyone wandering into their hunting paths.
"There is an indescribable feeling when one flies or perhaps walks, through the forests called Uxnir's Garden by the Trithians. For once my scholar's wit has failed to capture exactly what it was that I felt. The trees themselves are a work of utter beauty, both wild as the trunks and branches twist, and graceful as the falling of new snow. But it was the weight of the air in that forest that so caught me. As if one was passing through a place that had not been touched by anyone since the first seed sprouted. There is an air of deep mystery there that for once... I am glad to leave a mystery." - Grand Keeper ZirethThe Grove Guardians
The great forest is protected by a group of Trithians known as the Grove Guardians. These individuals are said to be able to speak with the plants and animals of the forest and tend to it as a place of reflection for those seeking's guidance. Grove Guardians are not unlike the Ferals of Ferianism and in fact, share many of the same principles and abilities of those strange practitioners though among the Trithian's they are viewed more like wild priests than true ferals. They tend to the forest as a whole, maintain the public gardens used by those reflecting upon the will of Uxnir, and provide protection for the sanctuary as a whole.
Common Myths and LegendsVessals of Spirits
Before Trithia was formed nomadic tribes of boralid and many members of the established tribes of The Kenima Hegemony would seek out these trees as vessels of spirits. The leaves and vines were burned as part of the rituals required to bring forth the ancestors of the practisioner. It was thought that the souls of some boralid would be unable to pass to the next realm because their death rituals were not observed or perhaps they felt compelled to remain attached to the physical world a while longer. These spirits would find their way into these whispering willows. Able to talk to one another, to touch and connect with the changing world and give guidance to those seeking wisdom and understanding. These spirits were always the easiest to summon forth as they already had a physical tie to Asheshal and soon so many spirits were called forth that the forest itself came alive with their presence.Healing to the Pure of Heart
The forest has become a refuge for those seeking healing. It's thought that the waters of Lake Virean, breathing in the air of the forest itself, and sleeping in the branches of the mighty Umahrra tree can restore those who are sickly, afflicted by mental distress, or the maimed. There are some instances where those stricken will return from a pilgrimage to the forest whole and untroubled speaking of whispers from the Whisps which are the manifestations of Imacla given form. Tiny sparks of light robed in cloth so fine it's almost invisible that float about areas steeped in the magic of Uxnir's creation. There's no real proof that such claims are indeed the act of Uxnir healing these individuals but across Trithia many believe in the power of the Umahrra.Trees of
While not all may believe in the restorative powers of the Umahrra tree nearly all Trithian's believe that these trees and the forest which they make were a favored creation of Uxnir. That while the great God set into motion all magic and law which would govern the universe there were some things that He took great personal care in creating. These sights of wild nature are holy among those who followThe Weeping Woman as a true religion like the Trithians. Because of the personal touch of Uxnir upon the land the area is fiercly protected and known as a place of deep reflection.
The Feather Hoof so the mother was tasked to leave her child to the wilds where she could be claimed by the animals and the earth could drink her blood for she would surely die. But the mother begged her sons for help. The eldest son knew the truth of the matter but he agreed to take her and his sister to the root of a mighty mountain where the mother could try and save her daughter for in the root of the mountain was a Seer with the power to bring forth great magics for a price.have a much different view of the Umahrra trees. Within their nomadic tribes there is a story told about a mother who birthed thirteen sons but all she wished for was a daughter. When she finally gave birth to her fourteenth and last child she wept for it was the girl she had been hoping for. But the girl was twisted and afflicted with
When the family, fifteen in total, arrived to the Seer's den the old crone turned out to be a giant Osp and it told the mother that the girl could be cured of the painful and fatal mutation but it would require a task to be completed. The great lake was home to a cunning and strong fish the Osp called Mut-an. The mother was to spear Mut-an and bring it to her as an offering or to give up the life of one of her beloved sons. She galloped from the cavern and charged for the lake with her sons. The eldest was the first to see Mut-an. The fish was in fact a fire spirit that lived in harmony with the waters of the lake and had taken a form of a mighty fish with waves of fins that gracefully flowed through the currents. He raised his spear to strike at Mut-an but the mother, instead, drove her own spear through his heart. As the eldest son fell on the banks of that lake so too did his twelve brothers and his sister, so frail and weak breathed her last breath. The Osp is cunning. She did not tell the mother that all the children were bound by her womb and so by sacrificing one she would sacrifice all. The Osp harvested their fleeing spirits giving her great power and then left the mother alone with her dead. The mother wept bitterly and from her tears mixing with the blood of her own children the White Tree sprouted forever marking the place of betrayal. Many sernos believe that the woman never died and instead she wanders the white forest weeping for her fate and waiting for the Osp to return that she may try to take back her choice.
Poison and AntidoteWillow bark comes from the willow tree of the Salix species. The bark contains salicin. Salicin is metabolized in the body to create salicylic acid. It has analgesic and antipyretic properties making it anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and fever-reducing. In normal willow trees which are found all over the world, the bark can be used to cure a host of physical ailments from pain to infection and even mild sicknesses. Within the Umahrra species, the levels of the otherwise helpful chemicals are so high that when brewed into teas, ground, and placed into food, or otherwise absorbed through ingestion or even through open wounds, that it can put people into deep comas from which they eventually die. It is considered a slow and painless poison that can take up to ten days to claim the victim. Traces of the poison's true nature often do not show up for many days within the victim leaving room for error in the treatment of the ailment which can cause the victim to die much sooner. Physical traces of the poison include distinctive blue or black coloring under the nails, a loss of fur or hair, fully dilated pupils, shallow breathing, slow and weak pulse, the rejection of sustainable foods, high urine output followed by full kidney and liver failure. The only known cure for the poison is in the flowers of the same tree. When collected and made into a tincture of white spirits and the whole flower. It takes a full twenty-four hours for the tincture to mature and can only be made from fresh flowers. Once created the tincture has a potent shelf life of only one hundred and twenty days after which it loses its potency exponentially rendering it useless in a matter of days. Because of the gap in time where there is no antidote available the poison is a favored tool of many assassin groups around Saycha (A'hush).
DomesticationAll attempts to plant seeds or even transplant young trees into similar biomes in different locations have failed. It is assumed that either the trees require the ecosystem that has developed around them and the network of roots with others of their species or that the waters of Lake Virean hold some unique property that prevents them from growing elsewhere. Lumbered Wood: Lumbered wood from the Umahrra is highly sought after as a status symbol and a spiritual icon more than being preferred for structural properties unique to it. The wood is only harvested from trees that are confirmed to be dead by the Grove Guardians and the trees are extracted from the forest with intense care so that as little damage to surrounding trees can be done. Though only one in five trees that dies is allowed to be sold as raw wood material. The willow vines are harvested and returned to the forest as part of the ecosystem in addition to the bark. The bark is never sold to any potential buyer and is also returned to the forest where it is carefully monitored to prevent any stealing of the material. Once stripped of the bark and vines the tree is cut according to the buyer's specifications and shipped for their use. Common uses of the wood are:
- Carved Statues
- Building material in Cathedrals or other religious buildings
- Decorative wood details such as stair rails and crown molding
- Wood Floors
- Chests and small boxes; A traditional wedding gift among Trithian mothers to their daughters
- Ceremonial burning wood
- Dinning wear, particularly cups