Splynterwold

Lonely timber

At's no tree. Tis a mountain. A living, breathing, juggernaut soaring from the Boundless Plain where there shoont be naught but bleedblade and angry sky.
Atinaze Botaniate, Presian minstrel, 2747 AoR
T
he Spynterwold is an awe-inspiring - and baffling - natural phenomenon in one of the highest regions of the eastern Boundless Plain. The most basic description is that it is, quite simply, a tree. But such an explanation is ridiculously cursory, because the Splynterwold is completely dissimilar from any other tree on Excilior, and it is entirely unique in the recorded annals of casterway history. It is (apparently) the last surviving specimen of a species that dwarfs all others that currently thrive on the planet. On a world that is dominated by enormous trees, the Splynterwold makes them all look modest. Even stranger, it lives in a region where it is the only tree standing for a hundred kilometers or more.
 
Forest of One
Its name is something of a misnomer. The Komon suffix of -wold refers to a forest - and all of the planet's great forests have names that end in -wold. From this perspective, the name Splynterwold may feel like a gross exaggeration. For even when its glory is fully accounted for, it is still, at the end of the day, a single tree. Nevertheless, many have suggested, without a hint of hyperbole, that the Splynterwold is so large and so expansive in nature that it is, by all practical measures, a forest in its own right.
 
Unclassified
Although Splynterwold is a thoroughly colloquial name, no one (not even the cognoscenti) have tried to assign it a more scientific classification. From very early on, it was realized that this lonely arbyr had somehow become the only (the last) of its kind. There has never been a single verified instance of another tree of the Splynterwold's species being found anywhere on Excilior. Quite frankly, there aren't even any trees that resemble it - in scope, or in features. For this reason, even the scientifically-inclined have generally resisted the urge to further classify the species until they manage to find some other surviving specimens - or, at the very least, any verified cousin. Until such a discovery (and nearly four millennia have passed without such a finding), most are content to simply refer to the tree as the Splynterwold.
 
Ancient Organism
As far as anyone has been able to surmise, the Splynterwold is the oldest living organism on the planet. While recent observations have been able to prove that the arbyr is still growing, all accounts indicate that it grows at a glacial pace. And from the first, fleeting accounts of the tree - stretching as far back as the late Age of Cervia, it's apparent that the tree had already reached an unfathomable size. This leads many cognoscenti to extrapolate that the regal timber must have taken root many thousands of years before casterways established themselves across the land.
 
Melancholia
For all of its grandeur, the tree often holds a place in popular lore of... sadness. Or loneliness. The more environmentally-minded have long mourned the fact that, as far as anyone knows, the Splynterwold is the last of its kind. And although it seems to be in solid health, there is presumably some date in the not-too-distant future when the majestic arbyr will finally go dormant - and die. Repeated attempts have been made to propagate the tree through cuttings, but no one has managed to foster one of those offshoots for more than a year or two. For some unknown reason, the tree's biology is simply not amenable to being multiplied in this way. But with no other examples of the Splynterwold's kind existing anywhere else on the planet, it's doubtful that there will ever be another like it, unless someone cracks the mystery of how to successfully foster those cuttings.

Manifestation

The Splynterwold is what canopeias wanna be when they grow up.
Aailyn Rosewohl, Charian bookbinder, 3152 AoG
S
ize - epic, mind-boggling scale - is the first thing that strikes newcomers about the Splynterwold. The peak of its canopy was last measured to be more than 250 meters high. That puts it at more than twice the height of the bloodwood (generally acknowledged to be the tallest tree species on Excilior), and it's nearly 2.5 times taller than the average canopeia. The breadth of its canopy is known to easily extend more than 750 meters from end-to-end. For ages, cognoscenti have studied (and argued) the mechanics that allow the tree to reach such extraordinary heights. Laboratory tests with canopeia lumber (which is so strong that it is often referred to as "organic ore") seem to indicate that it lacks the tensile strength that would be necessary to support any structure as gargantuan as the Splynterwold. But researchers are unsure whether the Splynterwold's stature is simply a product of wood that is fantastically-stronger than any other (known) species on Excilior, or whether there are other mechanical factors at play that allow the tree to grow to such a massive scale.
 
Lightning Rod
Like so many of the Splynterwold's other features, its bark has no parallel amongst Excilior's flora. It's distinctly pliable. Some have called it "soft", because its surface yields to the touch and will even hold its shape for some time after someone pushes hard against the trunk. But it's usually characterized as "leathery". Despite the remarkable malleability of its bark, it has another feature that is more akin to metal: It is adept at conducting electricity. The tree's colossal size, coupled with the fact that it seems to conjure its own weather systems (i.e., thunderstorms), means that it absorbs a continual barrage of lightning strikes. But the relentless electrical attacks apparently have little-or-no effect on the arbyr's overall health. Every time it's struck, massive sections of the canopy - eventually leading right down through the trunk and into the ground - illuminate in a dazzling display of electrical brilliance. Anecdotal observations seem to indicate that the voltage travels, seamlessly, right through the tree until the deadly energy is simply shunted into the ground. While these repeated charges don't seem to damage the tree, humans in the vicinity don't enjoy the same vulnerability. When storms are in the area (and storms are frequently in the Splynterwold's area), the wiser casterways make a point to cease all contact with the tree. For there are numerous recorded cases of worshippers, in the act of touching/hugging/stroking the base of the trunk, who absorbed a fatal lightning strike that originated in the canopy but quickly travelled right down the spine of the tree before taking a brief detour through the unfortunate sightseer mere milliseconds before it dove into Excilior's soil.
 
Weather Patterns
The tree is so broad, and so tall, that it affects weather patterns. Early explorers noted the fortuitous rains that often greeted them when making a pilgrimage to the Splynterwold. After trekking across the (relatively) drier regions of the Boundless Plain, they were frequently relieved to find a thunderstorm brewing around the vicinity of the great tree. Cognoscenti now realize that many of these downpours are exacerbated by the Splynterwold. One of the more astonishing side-effects of these nourishing rains is the stream that almost always flows out of the arbyr's canopy. Its flat, overlapping, saucer-like leaves captures so much of the precipitation that, other than periods of severe drought (e.g., during the Trials of Syrus), there is almost always a continual river that flows down from the canopy and forms the headwaters of the Borswain Run. This flow of water, originating from within the Splynterwold itself, eventually empties into the Seia of Saints on the coast of Toteria.
 
Wanders of Maenar
This unique feature - being the only tree that can claim to also provide the headwaters for an entire river - makes it one of the most revered holy sites for the Wanders of Maenar. On any given day, it's not unusual to find up to a hundred Wanders trekking to the holy arbyr, or making camp in its vicinity. Of course, the Wanders aren't the only group that holds a love or fascination with the Splynterwold. Even for those with few spiritual beliefs, the tree tends to capture the public's imagination. This is especially true for those who are witnessing it for the first time. No matter how many tales one hears about the borderline-illogical scale of the tree, no one really understands its grandeur until they actually see it for the first time.
The Toterians honor their natural wonder by sprinkling all manner of refuse round its base. By digging makeshift latrines under its shelter. By erecting tent hovels amongst its roots. And by selling crappy novelty trinkets to all who come to witness her.
Kaido Taim, Chevian ranger, 2118 AoR
Tourist Attraction
Between the Wanders, the random adherents of other faiths, environmentalists, sightseers, and the cognoscenti, there is an ongoing community that was established long ago at-and-around the arbyr. The Splynterwold does not occupy any space that is thought of as a traditional "city". Most of the pilgrims visiting the site are transitory. Some stay for less than a day. Others may camp out for as long as a month. But the "population" of the Splynterwold is somewhat similar to the "population" of saltfoots (and their passengers) navigating the Aequin Ocean at any particular point in time. In aggregate, there is always some kind of significant population under-or-near the Splynterwold, but almost none of those people will still be at the site within a few months. Most the people currently at the Splynterwold won't even be there within 5-10 days.
 
Watershed
Aside from sheer size, the tree itself is configured in a way that also makes it completely unique from any other species. Its leaves spread out like thick platters. Whereas most species sprout only as many leaves as are necessary to capture the bulk of Syrus's rays, the Splynterwold seems as though it's in a race against itself to see how many of the broad, waxy dishes it can spawn at once. In many parts of the canopy, the leaves lay, one on top of another on top of yet another. This layering also serves to capture moisture, ensuring that a drop hitting the highest leaves can't possibly slip through the tree until it's already traversed over a formidable legion of other leaves. This has led some cognoscenti to estimate that, at any given moment, there's enough latent rainfall still clinging to the Splynterwold's layered leaves, that it could fuel a full rainstorm on its own, without a cloud in site, if it merely released all of its water to the ground at one time.
 
Phosphorescence
This "trapped" water (or, at a minimum, water that is travelling very slowly toward the ground) also fosters a standalone ecosystem of phosphorescent mosses residing high in the tree's branches. The prodigious glow is not the subtle variety that may be observed in a Noctern's fingertips, or in emberstool conflagrations. The Splynterwold's light rivals anything man-made. At night, it shines across the Boundless Plain as a beacon that can be seen, from some directions, for nearly a hundred kilometers. Most cognoscenti believe that these glowing mosses have developed some kind of symbiotic relationship with the Splynterwold, but no one has been able to quantify the benefits that either side may enjoy in the arrangement.

Localization

T
he Spynterwold is located (roughly) at 25° east and 23° south, nearly 100 kilometers west of the Stoneyards, on the highlands of the Boundless Plain, in the southeastern corner of Toteria. This region's earliest explorers reported its existence and, as far as any cognoscenti have been able to surmise, it has lived at this location for the entire span of humans' history on Excilior. In fact, some have estimated that the tree may have already been firmly established thousands of years before the arrival of the First Casterway. The early reports could not provide any accurate measurements of its size. And for those who did offer faithful estimates, their claims were met with snickering derision. It took a great many pilgrimages to the Splynterwold, by a plethora of respected scholars over centuries, before the broader world - the world that had never seen the Splynterwold for themselves - finally came to accept that it is a real phenomenon, and not just some fanciful fairy tale from delirious travellers who have spent too long wandering across the Boundless Plain.

Boundless Plain cover
Pronunciation SPLINN-terr-wohld
Type
Natural

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