The Verdant Gorge
As we travelled by raft down the dark and dank waterways from the Stonesky Drainage, I could feel the weight of the rock above my head. The darkness and the strange close echoes of water hissing apon the bare rock were oppressive. But then, a glimmer of golden light was our only warning, our eyes too shocked to register it properly, and we were upon it, within it. Blinded, blinking as we rushed out from the darkness. And finally, as my vision cleared, I beheld the most wondrous of sights I had ever seen. The walls of canyon shot up, tangled with vines, ferns and trees with wide leaves the size of a house, and above them massive white trunks disappearing into a pale green haze that seemed to glow from above. The waters took us rushing past a herd of water-fat cows, while above my head flocks of brightly colour parrakeets twisted and whirled. And around me the sound was deafening, a cacophony of chirps, bellows, buzzing and the dancing of the waters upon rocks and a constant spray upon my face. All of it perfect.The Verdant Gorge is a section of the Stonesky reaches of the Godswollen River that collapsed upon itself many hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago. Along its length of nearly 20 miles, the twisting and moulded walls of the Stonesky are open to the sky far above. They remain sheltered from direct rays of the sun, and fed by the constant surge of waters from the river below. The Canyon walls are a series of terraced cliffs upon which are draped one of the most astonishing rainforests known across Shadowfire.
The ecology drops in distinct layers, defined primarily by the distance from the harsh sun and desert fringes upon the lip of the canyon, and proximity to the waters of the Godswollen River as they cascade along the floor of ravine.
The Arid Steps
This is the layer directly beneath the lip of canyon. Only the edges that are protected from the suns rays by rocks are able to hold life here, but life there is. Hardy succulents and grasses cling to the protected shadows, and are fed by the evaporating steam that wafts up from the layers below. Small lizards, insects and Klomerati tendrils grace these areas, feeding off the plants, and each other.
The Dry TerracesThe next layers down contain steep terraces of grassland broken up by rough boulders and larger shrubs, and even pockets of stunted woodland. There are a number of small villages built into the cliff walls at this height, where farmers tend to domesticated flocks of small goat-like creatures, grow fireberry vines and harvest grains from the dry grasses that grow along the narrow switchbacks.
With the sun's power growing weaker, the deeper layers are further protected by the canopy of the forest below. The tops of the tall trees are a wide umbrella of leaves and twisted branches that catch the rising mists of water from the river far below, and form an important element of the micro-climate below. Birds of prey patrol these heights, hunting insects, lizards and the small rodents that scurry along the many branches.
The canopy protects the lower layers, trapping water so the air is filled with billowing clouds of warm vapor that drift and congregate around the trunks of the huge trees. This layer is dominated by tree ferns of many types that grow within the bowls and nooks of the trunks of the larger trees. Pools of water congregate up the rocky sides of the canyon, and insects swarm in the green-filtered light.
Beneath the mists lie the steep and broken banks of the Godswollen River as it roars along the bottom of the ravine. There are many stretches of white water and tall waterfalls as the river pushes past the remnants of the old Stonesky roof that collapsed here many hundreds of years before. There are pools of calm and deep water where schools of fish swim, and large slow moving mammals graze upon the leaves.
Along the rainforest floor, huge flightless creatures somewhere between a bird and lizard prowl on fast legs, hunting their prey. And the trees carry fruits of all kind, a diversity of vegtables, roots, leaves and herbs can be found everywhere. On the wider expanses of the ravine, where the river slows, there are large swathes of flat silt-laden soils, where local villages of Devilkin farm domesticated beasts, till crops and power mills fed by the Godswollen.