THE HEATH OF JERNAIS

DESCRIPTION - LOCATION - PEOPLE - CLIMATE - FLORA - FAUNA
RESOURCES - GOVERNMENT - TRADE/PRODUCTION  - MYTH/LORE - HISTORY

Located in the heart of Santharia's province of Vardýnn, the Heath of Jernais is a composite of heath, moor, and farmland approximately 100 strals long and 500 strals wide. Best known for its numerous flowers, its vibrantly coloured blossoms form the largest wild garden in Southern Sarvonia. Along the Vandrina River, rising between the blooms and grasses, is the city of Jernais and a cascade of small farming villages. The Milkengrad-Carmalad trade route crosses through the east and west borders of the Heath, providing travelers the shortest lateral passage through Vardýnn. Numerous starback deer have overgrazed the heathland, halting it from transforming into a woodland like the Thaelon Forest to the north. No matter how often the Heath of Jernais was scorched by the fires of nature, or by the fires of war, it has been restored each time with renewed vigor in the face of adversity.

The origin of the Heath’s name is traced back to ancient Erpheronia. It is a combination of the ancient Aerpheriane words “Jer“ (meaning “flower”) and “nais” (meaning “heath”). In Styrásh, the Heath of Jernais is known as “Prán Meríniás” (literally "Heath of the Flowers").

The Milkengrad-Carmalad Road
View picture in full size Picture description. A view from the Milkengrad-Carmalad road, looking west, between the village of Liosa and the city of Jernais. To the north and south are tree farms owned and utilized for lumber by Amerson’s Furniture Design. Image drawn by BKiani.

Description. The Heath of Jernais may be subdivided into three areas with unique features.

The variety of homes and religious practices in the Heath of Jernais are described below in an essay by Patrus Mengar, a researcher born in Cardos who spent 14 years delivering messages:

The deepest aspect in the culture of the Heath of Jernais, the one that has never changed throughout the millennia nor wavering throughout its vast expanse, is that the human settlement is an extension of a natural formation of the heath.

Picture a typical moment in the Heath of Jernais. Say, Firstflame, in the middle of Changing Winds.

A woodcutter in Jernais sets off to his tree farm, leaving one of the many city houses adorned in a bright colour paint. The brilliant hues of these homes echo the petals of the heathland, especially the stretching dalferia which are greeting the day. The woodcutter just gave thanks to Baveras for the river nourishing his farm.

At the same time, a wheat farmer in the village is about to check his field. It was seeded earlier that month, and lies beside one of the many uniform houses rooted in the bank of the Vandrina. The rectangular clay home is mud and wean grass, inheriting its solid and earthy colour strictly from the local grounds. The farmer says a quick prayer to Grothar for fine weather that day.

Meanwhile, a cleric of Nehtor is grinding yahrle leaves with a mortar and pestle. The edges of the cleric’s home and the limbs of the surrounding trees dance so closely that one does not seem to mind the other’s company.

In the same instant, a silk dyer says a blessing to Jeyriall after taking in the crisp scent of fáberige released by a recent burst of spring rain. The dyer is heading south towards the moor, brushing by the remains of crenellation from ancient walls built when Jernais was once a military base. The crenellation is angular at the tips, as an abstract reflection of the peaks which still march along the horizon of the rising sun.

The moment is concluded as a new traveler enters the Heath of Jernais for the first time, interpreting the aspect he sees, whilst deciding the side that he wants to see.
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Location. The Heath of Jernais occupies a vast stretch of central Vardýnn, just south of the Vandrina River. At the northern border of the Heath, Denring's bridge crosses the center of the river to Thaelon Forest on the opposite side. The Hèckra Volcano and Twinnean Peak form the rocky southern boundary of the Heath. To the east of the Heath is the Cylian River, which flows quickly into Ephrin’s Lake to the northeast. Evergrey Bridge stands somberly at the southeast tip of the Heath, and the rich fields of the Aurora Plains are to the west.

View entry on Santharia View complete map of Santharia The Aurora Plains The Province of Vardýnn

Picture description. The location of the Heath of Jernais, south of the Vandrina River, east of the Aurora Plains, and north of the Hèckra Volcano, in the Santharian province of Vardýnn. Map by Artimidor. Return to the top

People. Travelers of all kinds pass through the Heath of Jernais, but they rarely stay for long. For looming ominously over the heath is the ever-present Hèckra volcano. In the event of a volcanic eruption, the heath is at high risk of being damaged by ash or fire. Some people, mostly Helcrani, say that the third eruption in 79 a.S. has fulfilled Ag'rán Tacunija's "Curse of Fire", and the volcano will not likely erupt again. Others, mostly Erpheronians, say that the volcano could still devastate the Heath of Jernais at any time, for a reason either unrelated to the curse or due to a new outbreak of fighting.

Regardless of belief, the people willing to stay in the Heath permanently have all found a sense of purpose there. They are surrounded by their kin, the Erpheronians to the north, Caltharians to the east, Centoraurians to the west, and Helcrani to both the west and south.

Climate. The air in of the Heath of Jernais is notably dry, but there is a modest amount of precipitation in all seasons of the year. As long as there is a source of irrigation, the climate is otherwise suitable for growing crops.

The areas furthest away from water sources, particularly the heathland to the east of Bitterstone Moor, is subject to slightly larger ranges of hot and cool temperatures. But most of the heath is not too far from the Vandrina and Cylian rivers, where summers are not excessively hot and winters are mild. Sometimes winter travelers have even been amused to see a bright patch of heather growing right through a thin layer of winter snow. Return to the top

Flora. The season is written upon the face of the landscape, for different flowers bloom at different times of the year. The earliest blossoms to emerge in the spring are the dalferia, with their small multi-coloured buds peppering the ground in nearly all colours. The sunsmile is soon to follow, bringing its golden hue to the flatlands. By mid-spring, the fáberige begins to bloom, adding small dots of white to the floral mix. Cerubell blossoms start to grace their touches of blue to the banks of the Vandrina River. As late spring arrives, white and lilac yahrle flowers begin to open just as the dalferia’s petals begin to fall away. As summer heat intensifies, the fading flowers of the fáberige and cerubell are replaced by the ripening berries. About every other summer season, the durblud will add bursts of reddish-brown flowers before fading nearly as quickly as they came. Between late summer and autumn, the sunsmile’s puffy seed heads begin to emerge, their seeds floating away freely in the wide open plain. While most of the other flowers in the heath have passed by this time, the heather is in full bloom. The heather flowers are the last to blossom in the heath before a new spring season begins.

While tufts of wean grass grow in the Heath of Jernais, they are not nearly as prolific as in the Aurora Plains. By contrast, the heath's starback deer will graze the grass very closely and sometimes lick the milky substance which stimulates regrowth. Alth'ho grass grows more thickly near the villages of the Vandrina River, where the deer populations have been thinned due to hunting. Yet the deer and the tarep rabbits have also largely permitted the wide variety of flowers in the central heathland, since these animals have prevented the alth’ho grass, wean grass, and heather from overtaking other types of vegetation.

Some wild plants are found clustered mostly in certain areas of the heath. Yealm reeds are found beside the Vandrina river bank alongside the cerubells. Candlebushes and allia plants grow in Bitterstone Moor, away from the xazure-laden lake but within the mineral-rich soil deposited by the Hèckra Volcano. Patches of furze grass and incense grass grow erratically in the damper soils of Bitterstone. Icemilk and pheasant grass are prolific south and west of Bitterstone, particularly on the sunny foothills. Most of the heath's bladeleaf ferns grow near the Cylian River.

The tree farms planted for lumber contain a variety of ashwude, baych, oak, maple, and birch trees. Since starback deer prevent most trees from maturing within the heath, new trees grow only where the shoots are carefully enclosed and protected by tree farmers. Autumn is when the lumber farms are the most striking, since the oak and maple leaves are turning korwyn gold and karikrimson red while the surrounding grasses are beginning to fade away.

Nehtorian farmers grow in’ila shrubs for the healing properties of its berries. The Nehtorians also tend willow tree farms nearby the banks of the Vandrina for its bark. These farms may include other types of vegetation planted as desired by the healer, such as yahrle or sunsmile from the pure heathland. A few bladeleaf ferns have also been successfully transplanted into Nehtorian farms.

Most agricultural farms plant corn and wheat. Corn is planted on a two field crop rotation system, altering between corn in one season and beans in the other. Wheat is planted on a three field rotation system, wheat grain in one season, then oat grain, and in the third season the field is left fallow. Pastures of wild bredden grain provide fodder for farms which raise cattle. Meldarapple trees, lýth’bél plants, and kaouje have been grown in carefully kept private gardens. The largest private gardens are within the city of Jernais and the village of Cardos. Return to the top

The Heath of Jernais

View picture in full size Image description. A southwest view of the heath from within the city of Jernais, with the prominent Hèckra Volcano and the High Fores in the background. Picture drawn by Bard Judith.

Fauna. The primary difference between the animal distribution in the heath and those common in grasslands is due to the lack of the availability of nutritious grasses. However the difference is only slight, and there are a wide variety of animals who make this large flower garden their home.

The most essential animals to the growth of the heath are also its smallest. Flitter-twitch butterflies, red diamond butterflies, ceruwings, and malise have pollinated many of the flowers. Seeán beetles also eat many of the pests which harm the plants.

The heath's high population of starback deer and tarep rabbits may be found in all areas of the heath except Bitterstone. The only natural predators of the deer within the heath are a few packs of horned wolves, who typically roam the central flatlands.

If it is easy to take care of, and eats just about anything, then it is a preferred livestock on the Heath of Jernais. Taenishes are raised for meat and eggs, domestic goats for milk and cheese, and sawis sheep are raised for wool. However, outcroppings of wild bredden grain were turned successfully into pastures for baneg cattle, so they are preferred in the heath over other bovine types.

Human settlement has also impacted the distribution of animals indirectly. Kuatus and aelirels can be found frequently around lumber tree farms, where many have made their homes. Human farmers have also unintentionally increased the field mouse population due to the abundance of grain from crops. Grey foxes (raoshir) and grass snakes, which eat the field mice, have subsequently also increased. Domestic cats, especially barn cats, are kept by both farmers and Jernais city dwellers alike to control the field mouse population.

The animal population which has decreased due to human settlement is steppe deer, which were largely present around the Vandrina but frequently hunted as game. It is believed that the steppe deer had originally outnumbered the starback deer in the earliest days of the heath.

The unusual xazure heron is typically found in the damper areas of the heath. Often seen wandering between Bitterstone Moor and the Cylian River, these herons seem unaffected by the xazure mineral found in the lake. Return to the top

Government. The collective residents within the Heath of Jernais are under the governance of the Duke of Jernais. All major developments which impact the heath, such as plans for new irrigation layouts, require the approval of the duke. Return to the top

Resources. The primary resources of the heath are its plants and animals. Most of the food comes from the crops and domestic animals raised on the village farms. Starback and steppe deer are also hunted for meat. Nehtorians harvest in’ila berries, willow bark, yahrle, sunsmile, and bladeleaf for medicine. Due to the abundance of flowers, there are also many malise farms in the heath which produce honey. The heath is also a large supplier of wax, which is produced both on the malise farms and harvested from the candlebushes.

Ash-salt is found in abundance west and south of Bitterstone, nearest to the Hèckra Volcano. While this dark variety of ash-salt is not potent enough for the Nehtorians to use as medicine, it is typically used as a food preservative. Most notably, this is the source of the majority of salt the Silk Dyer's Guild provides to the Aellenrhim for permission to gather silkel.

Blue silk dyes are made from the xazure mineral found in Bitterstone, and purple silk dyes are made from the allia berries. The other dye colours are typically imported from gnomes. Return to the top


Trade/Production. The imports and exports, as well as the majority of occupations of the people, are tied to one of the industries below.

Idyllic view on Denring
View picture in full size Picture description. An idyllic view on the village of Denring, known especially for its large population of hunters. Image drawn by BKiani.

 Myth/Lore. No one knows for sure how the Heath of Jernais was first formed. The area was already described as heathland by the time the earliest recorded settlers had arrived. In particular it is unclear why the deer were originally able to eat the new tree shoots of the heath. The most common explanation was that the land was originally ravaged by an unchecked fire, which could easily tear through the flammable vegetation in the dry air.

One creation myth is below:

There were once lush fields where the Heath of Jernais now stands. Then a great fire was sparked by an eruption of the volcano. Baveras intervened, channeling the river to block the fire, protecting the sanctity of the Thaelon.

Nehtor arrived, and grieved for the land which was not spared. He planted yahrle in the ashes.

Then Jeyriall came, and saw what Nehtor had done. She wished to plant a garden to brighten the grave of the plants that burned in the blaze. She scattered seeds upon the land at all times of the year, so that the garden would be in perpetual bloom.

Then Grothar came, and saw what Nehtor and Jeyriall had done. He also took pity on the land, and added his willows to the banks of the river, to mourn the trees that had been lost.

Then Foiros came, and planted candlebushes. The bushes served as an altar of candles, but also as a subtle warning. For if death shall again fall upon the heath needlessly, then the land shall be scorched by fire one more.

The Heath saw death as the tribes and races fought. Fire and ash smothered the land many times.

And each time, the pattern of mourning began again. Nehtor and Jeyriall arrived first, and added flowers to the graves…

In this version of the myth, the mourners are sometimes interpreted as thinly veiled representations of the four human tribes which reside in the Heath - Nehtor representing Erpheronian healers, Grothar representing Caltharian tree farmers, Jeyriall representing Centoraurians from the Aurora, and Foiros representing Helcrani redeemed from the "Curse of Fire".

There are several other tales of myth and lore which take place in the Heath of Jernais, such as those listed below:

 Date of last edit 20th Burning Heavens 1673 a.S.

Information provided by Amabella Catston View Profile