Varazslem Geographic Location in The Sundered Worlds | World Anvil
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Varazslem

The forest of the twin hearts

Snow-covered pines, the scream of a hunting harpy, frightening tales told 'round bonfires whose light doesn't seem to reach as far as it should. Varazslem was the first place homesteaders from Boracia landed, but its unsettling quiet sent most pioneers in search of a more welcoming locale. Those that remained were drawn to the forest for reasons of their own, and those born beneath the pines are perfectly at home there.

What Peers Between the Branches

Varazslem is a dense boreal forest abutting the northern face of the Tels. Powerful trunks bear limber branches sprouting keen needles, and strange creepers grow in the shadows of the pines. Small villages are scattered along the edges, but the forest proper is too thick for any structure that would hold a mortal. Homes and shops are built close together, separated only by narrow dirt paths. The center of each village holds a long, low meeting house for elders to hold council. While architecture focuses primarily on function, Varazslem carvers have a long tradition of carving depictions of stories and folktales into support beams and stone walls. Hunting is nearly impossible, but the forest folk make enough of a living from trapping throughout the year.
Summers are warm but mild, and the spring rains are neither end of extreme. The mountains shield Varazslem from the worst of the southern blizzards, but the eastern winds still bring bitter winters.

Field Guide to Varazslem

The forest soil is neither as rich nor as irrigated as the Range, thus the biodiversity is narrower. Plant life includes cloudberry, lingonberry, tree groundpine, wood fern, hagbeard lichen, trolltooth moss, half blueberry, beauty sedge, Hinterland fairy bells, small-flowered woodrush, pine-drop, and countless herbs and natural spell components are found amid the pines. According to the local hedge witches, herbalists, and apothecaries, Varazslem foragables are more magically potent than others, and that potentcy increases the further into the forest they're gathered.
Most trees are coniferous—balsam fir, white spruce, black spruce, golden larch—and mammals tend to be smaller and darker, the better to hide in the forest. Black bears, raccoons, hares, snowshoe rabbits, wolverines, grey wolves, red foxes, smallhoof deer, black squirrels, and smokey shrews are the most common sights. Within the dark branches, boreal owls, Hinterland ravens, white throated sparrows, needle toe warblers, and black back woodpeckers watch the goings-on of the Vars. The stories say that the birds are the ambassadors of the forest hearts, reporting all that happens between them.
The narrow streams and shallow ponds that ooze between the trees are home to small frogs and smaller fish. Grey minnows, brook trout, wood frogs, minature walleye, southern pike, and tundra graylings are the most common catches. Land snails are a staple of Var diets, but a delicacy elsewhere on the contient. Exporting practices of Hinterland land snails has been a point of contention between the Vars and Boracia for decades; the Mythalenairran regulations favor the Vars and Boracian poachers are a prevalant annoyance.
Deeper into the forest, peculiar magic grows and impossible creatures slumber. Harpies are a regular threat to wildlife and civilization alike, and ambulatory pines have been known to destroy buildings and tools made with wood taken from too far into the woods, or taken without observing the proper rituals.

Heartbeat, Heartbeat

The halves of Varazslem are divided by a swath of farmland the locals refer to as the breach. They tell tales of two forest hearts, one in each half, sundered from one another when Pherrucorys broke the divine gate. On their own, each heart is just strong enough to beat life and magic into the woods. Together, they would unleash devastation untold on the entire Hinterlands. Foresters work to keep the breach clear from the base of the Tels to the northern plains to prevent a joining of the hearts.
While legends and mysteries of each heart abound, there is no living record of what lies at the center of either half of Varazslem. The Vars do what they can to keep adventurers from investigating on their own, but disappearances are all too common for the unheeding.
Type
Forest, Boreal (Coniferous)
Location under
Associated Cultures
Farmers, foresters, and trappers living in the breach between the Varazslem halves use the Balar statistics, and hexbloods are more common than would be expected. Instead of the Competition value, they have the following value:

Superstition. The world is filled with unknown magics. It is wise to treat them with respect.


The Varazslem Traveller

Those visiting the breach will find a people cordial if not warm. The strange magic of the forest has left the Vars wary of newcomers, but Mythalenairran influence ensures there is always a warm spot to sleep and a meal to be had for anyone seeking sanctuary among them. The roads between villages are poorly maintained and best traversed on foot or on mount, as anything with wheels is likely to have a bad time. Elders comprise the ruling councils of each settlement, and each village maintains its own idiosyncratic practices to ward against whatever comes from the forest. Many regard these as superstition, and even the Vars themselves acknowledge that they may not be necessary, they simply aren't willing to take the risk. The respectful traveller will note and honor the superstitions of each village. Var witches are the first line of defense against disrupters and those blatantly disrespecting local traditions, with the Web of Faith not far should the situation turn dire.

The traveller is unlikely to find much in the way of trade goods beyond the necessities, but they will have nearly overwhelming choice of magical talismans, potions, herbal remedies, augury services, and generations-perfected folktales. Much of Hinterland timber comes from the edges of the forests, with furs and pelts being the next most common export.

The traveller is strongly cautioned to avoid the forests proper. Magic becomes wilder and more primal the further in, and neither heart has been properly mapped or even seen by mortal eyes; only stories have survived the journey.


Cover image: by StockSnap via Pixabay

Comments

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Jan 23, 2023 17:51 by Michael Chandra

I really like the atmosphere this article manages to present, it's just so relaxing and magical.


Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
Jan 28, 2023 13:16 by Athevra Woods

Thank you!