Life's blood, life's wood
loodwoods are deciduous trees. But like many other trees on Excilior, they don't routinely loose all of their leaves each season. Their trunks are exceptionally straight and their impressive height makes them an ideal source of lumber.
While standing, they are notable for their "bushy" or "hairy" appearance. Bloodwood bark is fibrous, and as the tree grows, the older fibers tend to separate from the trunk and can remain attached for months. If there is no natural phenomenon to cleanse the tree of these dead fibers, it will acquire a look as though it is cloaked in long, brown, straight hair. If harvested before it completely dries out, these fibers can be used to manufacture sturdy rope and bindings. When these fibers are removed, the underlying wood has a rich, chocolaty hue that is also evident in its lumber. The dark, meandering swirls inherent in its grain make the tree prized for aesthetic purposes.
Nearly all of the tree's foliage springs forth from a central tuft at the very top/end of the trunk. Lower branches tend to shrivel and die. This is because the species has acquired an evolutionary strategy whereby it grows under and through canopeia canopies, with only the very top of the tree consistently finding sunlight. Some have remarked that the tree survives by essentially "stealing" sunlight from the broader canopeia under which it originates.
Uses, Products & Exploitation
he most remarkable use for bloodwoods is their lumber. Specifically, bloodwood lumber that has been soaked in blood acquires unique qualities whereby it grows significantly stronger while simultaneously becoming lighter. "Regular" bloodwood lumber is neither superior nor inferior to that of any other tree. Its weight and strength and generally comparable to any other hardwood. But bloodwood lumber that has been specifically cured - through extensive soaking in blood and seawater - becomes a substance that is closer in its base properties, to metal, than it is to wood.
A piece of bloodwood lumber, after being thoroughly cured, can attain a strength that is nearly 66% that of steel, while carrying less than 33% of steel's weight. This makes bloodwood an exceptional building material and casterway civilizations have used it to erect wooden buildings that would be structurally unsound with "regular" lumber from other trees, or from other planets.
he process of curing bloodwood was discovered millennia ago by none other than The First Mother herself. Her logs seem to indicate that her discovery of the process was aided, at least in some part, by the Watchers, but the accuracy of those reports (or whether the Watchers even existed at all) has been a subject of cognoscenti debate for ages. But what is of no debate is that, somehow, Cervia emerged from her self-imposed exile in present-day Blepi with an ingrained knowledge of the bloodwood curing process. Not only was she wearing cured bloodwood armor, but she set about teaching the curing process to all early members of her settlement at Setrinano.
The curing process is rather straightforward. Harvested lumber is allowed to soak in a bath of seawater, and blood, for a period of 30-60 days. It's generally acknowledged that, the longer the lumber is allowed to soak, the stronger the resulting lumber will be. But beyond 60 days, the gains in strength are only incremental - or not at all, depending upon the source explaining the process.
When the soaking period has completed, the wood is hung to dry. Some believe that drying the wood over an active fire - one stoked by heavily-smoking fuel sources - further enhances the finished product, although this is not proven. The wood needs to dry for a minimum of 60 more days. Great care must be taken to keep the wood in a dry and/or arid state during this period, as continued exposure to moisture will permanently arrest the curing process. After 60 days, the resulting lumber is so strong that it barely "feels" like wood any longer. Just as importantly, the wood is also noticeably lighter. The result is an arboreal product that behaves much more like a light-and-strong metallic alloy.
Anecdotal accounts also indicate that cured bloodwood is also much richer in complexion than its raw ancestors. The ebony swirls prevalent throughout the wood become more pronounced after curing. This yields a material, already holding significant construction properties, that is also cherished for its aesthetic qualities as well. Whereas most "industrial" materials have bland and utilitarian properties that make them undesirable for personal use, bloodwood suffers no such issue. Cured bloodwood is treasured not just for its ability to yield sturdy building frames or stout armor, but also for its value in homes and personal affects. Extensive effort has been invested to understand how or why bloodwood undergoes this incredible transformation when treated in this specific way. Cognoscenti have conducted countless experiments, attempting to replicate the effect - without using seawater or blood - and all such experiments have failed. Whenever seawater is substituted for simple saltwater, the transformation does not take place. More importantly, every time that any liquid has been substituted for blood, no transformation occurs.
Blood & Salt
Cognoscenti have known for some time that blood contains high concentrations of iron. So they have tried numerous treatments of iron-rich fluids that are not blood. But whenever they do, the resulting lumber is neither stronger nor lighter than its original form. The blood of piscine species has no effect on the curing process. To achieve properly-cured bloodwood, a practitioner must use the blood of land-based, or avian, species. But no one knows what ingredient(s), in the blood of non-aquatic species, serves as a catalyst in the curing process.
The darkest aspect of the history of bloodwood curing involves the use of human blood. Numerous civilizations, over many millennia, have adamantly claimed that human blood is the ultimate ingredient when trying to achieve the best possible curing of bloodwood. Many ancient texts swear by the need to use human blood if the practitioner wishes to achieve the strongest- and lightest-possible bloodwood. This contention has never been scientifically proven. But that has not kept a great many casterway generations from extolling the virtues of bloodwood that has been cured exclusively with human blood. Ultimately, this has driven practices of human sacrifice and bizarre burial rituals where deceased are first drained of all their blood before being laid to rest.
loodwood's curing process allows skilled artisans to craft products that would not be possible in other media. Specifically, the source wood can be carved and worked in its original "soft" form, just as any other wood would be. But once the final shape has been achieved, the piece can be put through a full curing process, after which the finished work will be "set" - and much more difficult to alter further. Traditional wood-working tools are impractical - or outright useless - when deployed against a thoroughly-cured piece of bloodwood.
Geographic Origin and Distribution
loodwood trees are ubiquitous amongst the temperate rain forests that dominate the coastal regions of Islegantuan and Islemanoton. They are often found growing in a complimentary fashion to the much-larger canopeia tree. They have been cultivated in many of the coastal regions of Isleprimoton, but they are not native to the continent and are not nearly as prevalent there.
Civilization and Culture
The impact of bloodwood trees - and their resulting lumber - has been... a complicated one throughout casterway history.
On one hand, the transformative effect of its lumber has allowed primitive civilizations to erect structures, and craft artifacts, that were sturdy beyond their technological means. They've constructed towers that would be the envy of alien cultures who did not have the aid of such materials. They've fortified their troops with weapons and armor of phenomenal strength. They've created intricate artifacts that have withstood millennia because they could permanently set their artwork through the curing process.
On the other hand, the lumber's implicit connection to blood has fostered a dire legacy. It would be problematic alone if bloodwood required the blood of livestock. But the fact that many civilizations have indulged the use of human blood to craft their wares has given the entire resource a foreboding and tragic connotation. For every legend of a hero who has manufactured an epic weapon by curing it in the blood of an honored comrade or a deceased loved-one, there are two stories of maniacal warlords or fanatical religious zealots who deployed large-scale human sacrifice solely for the purpose of supplying their armies with stronger-and-better weaponry.
1,200 metric tons