Day 33 We have passed the mountains. I almost forgot what the real world looked like. Days upon days upon days of... dark, dead earth and brutalised, burned trees made me and my men so vastly unprepared for the assault of colour that hit us. By the wind, Zaraj went straight for a nearby berry bush, shovelling it down his throat leaves and all. Thankfully all he got was the shits the next day. And still... I can't help the feeling that something is watching us, the deeper we go in. The days are getting colder, and soon, we will be reaching first snow. We have to be ready."
Sylmaneth is a land completely cut off from the rest of the world. Situated behind the Thousand Eye mountain range, many scholars and explorers alike have described entering the northern forest as an experience akin to teleportation from a barren wasteland to a beautiful, but alien landscape of unique flora. This is largely true. It cannot be stated for certain whether the amazement of explorers is due to the magically charged nature of Sylmaneth or if the journey through the barren no-man's land required to reach it creates a contrast heavy enough to amaze.
Beyond the barren wastes, Sylmaneth presents itself as a maze of cavernous woodland. Gorgeous, colourful flora and strange, sapient beasts and pools of silver shimmering water hidden from the rest of the world. And it cannot be disputed; Sylmaneth is beautiful. The southern part of the country is a cascade of colour; trees with vibrant leaves and flowers with spotted petals. Deeper in, the trees have eyes and whisper in the wind, the flowers and roots grab hold of unassuming passers by. A little ways north from the border, the land becomes covered in snow. Vibrant reds and oranges are replaced by dark greens beneath a blanket of white. Gorgeous birds and serpents are replaced with heavy furred beasts and spindly figures of shadow.
But like the embrace of a gorgeous seductress, one would be a fool to simply take the beauty of the north at face value. As the largest arcane hotspot on Varen, Sylmaneth is as beautiful as it is dangerous. One step off the road could lead an inexperienced traveller to one of the numerous gullies or caves. There, one such traveller would be lucky to run into a wild beast.
Fauna & Flora
The animals found beyond the mountain range are as varied as the people. Some will attack you on sight, with sharp teeth. Others will stalk you through the shadows; you will never know they were there. Others still will approach and nuzzle up against your leg, maybe even perform a trick for a small treat. A horrific beast may look the innocent lamb, and crawling horrors may come to aid. In the north, nothing should be taken at face value.
This same rule applies to any flora. A beginners guide to northern herbs is more akin to a seasoned wizard's spellbook than a handy guide to use when one is unsure if a particular berry is safe to eat. Whilst some herbs and plants have the courtesy to emit unpleasant scents or have the appearance of an eldritch horror in waiting, others are much less transparent and require careful, often tedious study.
Alchemists from other parts of the world make frequent orders (often in bulk) for herbs found in Sylmaneth. Some specimen only grow up in the north, and the plants that can be found elsewhere still tend to have a longer shelf life if they come from the weald.
Meat and fur are common place trade goods of the north; the former is consumed on a large scale, helping the Sylvar, maintain the body mass necessary to survive harsh winters. The latter is used for clothing, bedding, decorations and anything else the mind can conjure. Animal bones are utilised by the Sylvar witches in large amounts, both for personal work and in local rituals.
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I quite love your article. Your quote did a great job of capturing my intention (even if I think those Merchants didn't all make it out of there, particularly that guy who ate the berries). The pictures you use both help set the tone and break up the text so that nothing appears monotonous. Personally, I like to go look up authors of the pieces of art that I fancy, and having a link to direct me to their page would have been appreciated, but that's just me and I can be silly. Design aside, I do have some questions in regards to the fauna and flora of your world: 1) What has me particularly curious is what a bestiary must look like for that region, and if all creatures are animals, or if you have some behemoths/mythological creatures in there for added color, pun entirely intended. 2) Next, why is it that the herbs collected there preserve longer? Is it the magic of the area or something else? 3) Finally, do you have any stories in mind of anyone going and gathering wood from the trees with eyes? Is that even wise, in your world (probably not if I am asking the question)? Anyway, thank you very much for the wonderful read.
I do that with other articles if you've read any others from Varen. I'm gonna do it with this one once it is all done (I published it at an ungodly hour at home) 1. I am actually planning on expanding the sections on flora and fauna, linking to some of the plants and creatures that live there (including the trees with eyes, spider sheep, rusałki, strigas and other magical beasts.) Oh how excited I am to share all of those. 3. Herbs in Sylmaneth are kept alive due to the magic that literally courses beneath the earth. When taken away from Sylmaneth the magic in them fades over time, but it's enough to make them last considerably longer. 3. I do, oh I do! It's not wise for people of weak will. Those trees are as wise as the oldest witches and have motivations that many mortals really do not understand.
I haven't read your articles before (it's nice to meet you!). This is my first introduction into your world (and one that drew me in pretty quickly). Oh my lord you are listing off some of my favorite creepy creatures. Ever since Gravity Falls, birch trees give me the creeps, Rusalka are just wrong (which is why they are great), and Witcher introduced me to striggas. Do you have a particular mythology you enjoy pulling from--I want to guess Scandinavian, but I am curious if there are others that inspire you as well~? As per the herbs, that makes sense~. Aaaaand I am following your world now xD. Thank you for the response~!
Rusalkas and strigas, and the things that I have used are actually from Slavic mythology, (I'm Polish myself so I take a lot from it as otherwise they don't get a lot of representation and I'd love to change that. )Also holy quacamole thank you so much!
That was a really charming article, with a pinch of creepiness. I loved the sentence "A beginners guide to northern herbs is more akin to a seasoned wizard's spellbook than a handy guide to use when one is unsure if a particular berry is safe to eat." I wish you had expanded on these herbs, and particularly include an excerpt of said book in the sidebar. You hint, which is what partially gives it a sense of creepiness to things worse than wild beasts in the gullies and caves. I think that maybe a cool moment to add a quote/rumour about what could have happened to someone who went down a cave. At least I would like to know what people think lives in those caves...
I will be linking examples of stuff that lives in Sylmaneth, once some examples are ready. I am home-brewing them for my pathfinder campaign from scratch so it does take a little while, but they will be there eventually.
Not to sound like a parrot but I love your article! I would have liked to have read about some specific examples of fauna that live in this region, but the brief descriptions you give are enough for my mind to play with. Nice job!