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").
|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 Pure Heathland
When people envision the Heath of Jernais, this is the landscape that typically first comes to mind. Stretching widely across the center of the heath, it encompasses the land which is neither cultivated nor moor. This expanse of territory is an immense field of flowers that fade into the horizon, covering flat terrain or very gentle slopes. While there is often an air of serenity here, the Heath is never truly still. Changing its dress of flowers continuously with the weather and the season, it yields to the paths of the animals who inhabit it and the travelers who cross it.
The Vandrina Settlement
The northernmost part of the Heath most closely resembles its western neighbor, the Aurora Plains. However, the patches of grass are less uniform than in the Aurora Plains, as the carefully maintained pasturelands of the domestic Centoraurian horses give way to the pastureland of the wild starback deer. All permanent human residents make their homes here, exclusively within fifty strals of the Vandrina River. The artisan city of Jernais in the northwest is by far the largest settlement, with approximately 8,000 to 10,000 residents. The second largest settlement is the town of Denring, which contains about 1000-2000 residents and guards the Heath's bridge to the Thaelon.
Currently eleven farming villages, containing a few hundred residents each, are also nestled along the Vandrina River or next to an irrigation source. The farms are irrigated by a series of canals and aqueducts in the form of a grid, with the largest and southernmost canal flowing directly east from the Vandrina River to the city of Jernais. The village of Cardos, just south of the fork in the Vandrina River, has the largest wheat fields in the Heath of Jernais. The village of Liosa, located between Cardos and Denring, contains the Heath’s largest wild bredden grain pastures of cattle and sheep.
A series of picturesque watermills, currently outfitted with waterwheels of Ceutarl design, are powered by the gently flowing river. These mills either divert water into channels for irrigation or aid in the grinding of corn and wheat.
Some of the wheat and grains are now ground by baych-coloured windmills. Made with lumber from the local tree farms, they are smaller and plainer versions of the ones originally invented in Varcopas. Much like large flowers themselves, their sails spin with the breeze at the same time the Heath's floral petals are being jostled by the wind.
There are also tree farms for lumber, about one stral in diameter each, similar to the groves found in the Aurora Plains. A few specialized tree farms, called Nehtorian farms, are used to grow plants for herbal remedies.
Between the western border of the Heath and the city of Jernais, the Milkengrad-Carmalad trade route runs roughly parallel to the Vandrina River. Smooth stones line this well-traveled path, winding past villages to its north and south. "Jernais Pass", a portion of the Milkengrad-Carmalad route, connects the city of Jernais with Evergrey Bridge at the Cylian River. Several strategically spaced courier stations are located along the road, originally built in the year 184 a.S., as part of the larger effort to improve the communication in the Santharian kingdom.
The Bitterstone Moor
Sometimes just called “Bitterstone”, this area of moorland is in the central southern area of the Heath. Just north of the Hèckra's foothills, the moor is about as wide as the volcano, spanning about halfway across its eastern side. A stream containing a large amount of xazure mineral from the volcano empties into Bitterstone Lake. In Bitterstone there are very small rivulets of water without xazure coming from the volcano and from Twinnean Peak, surrounded by the fatally poisonous allia. Therefore, the moor is highly prized for blue and purple dyes, but contains no permanent residents.
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
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.
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.
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.
Jernais Silk Dyers Guild
Originally headquartered in Carmalad, this organization of Caltharians engages in every aspect of silk products, from gathering raw silkel to tailoring silk clothing. Best known for selling silk socks and silk stockings, their headquarters is located on “Purple Sock Street” in Jernais.
Due to its proximity to the Thaelon Forest, the guild relocated its headquarters to the city of Jernais after the founding of the Tharanian Kingdom. The Silk Dyers Guild has permission to harvest silkel from the Thaelon in exchange for providing salt to the Aellenhrim, who bring the salt to their elvish relatives in Bolder Forest. The Silk Dyers Guild seasonally hires hundreds of Caltharian workers to gather the silkel each year. Over time, many generations of Caltharians have stayed in the Heath of Jernais permanently, especially in the city, taking various jobs when it is not the silkel harvest season.
Jernais Carpenter Guild
Originally a series of woodcutters and carpenters from Carmalad, this guild was founded by Caltharians who offered to rebuild Jernais and its villages at a fraction of the cost Erpheronians had proposed it would take to rebuild Jernais as a military base. The Carpenter Guild now owns numerous tree farms in the Heath of Jernais, which provide a continuous source of lumber.
The Carpenter's Guild has several different branches. They build houses in the city, watermills and windmills for the farms, and small boats which cross the Vandrina. Their best known division are the cabinet makers, whose largest building is Amerson's Furniture Design in Jernais. Several members of the Jernais Carpentry Guild are highly skilled woodcarvers, often creating elaborate patterns in the work they produce.
One of the many human sects of Nehtor, these Erpheronian doctors and clerics feel it is their calling to harvest the numerous healing plants found in abundance on the Heath of Jernais. Originally from Voldar, they settle permanently in the heath to plant and tend tree farms along the Vandrina river for medicinal purposes. They each wear a hollow amulet containing dried leaves from their farm, reminding them of their purpose and their home.
The remaining permanent residents in the Heath are members of the collective hunting and farming communities who provide food for the city of Jernais. The villagers are predominantly Erpheronian in the center and the east side of the Heath. Helcrani immigrants from Algeron Field came to the Heath after the third Hèckra eruption (79 a.S.). These Helcrani were farm hands who wanted land of their own but could not compete with the existing prosperous farms of Algeron Field. There is no sharp divide between the Erpheronian and the Helcrani farmers, with the mixed population gradually more resembling those in Algeron as one proceeds further west.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Trade/Production. The imports and exports, as well as the majority of occupations of the people, are tied to one of the industries below.
|Picture description. An idyllic view on the village of Denring, known especially for its large population of hunters. Image drawn by BKiani.|
The "Salt for Silk" route is the most profitable trade route within the Heath of Jernais. Raw silkel is gathered from trees in the eastern Ó'phyría of the Thaelon Forest. The silkel ii harvested directly by people working for the Silk Dyers Guild, mostly Caltharians. In exchange, the Silk Dyers Guild gathers ash-salt from the base of the Hèckra Volcano in the Heath of Jernais and provides it to the Aellenrhim. While the Silk Dyers Guild may gather ash-salt at any time, they are only permitted to enter the Thaelon once a year, under supervision of the forest guardians. The silkel is brought to Jernais where it is woven into silk.
The silk cloth is then dyed using xazure, allia, or an imported dye. Members of the Silk Dyers Guild send their Caltharian representatives to Goltherlon Forest to import the other dye colors from the Golgnomes. Dyed silk cloth and silk clothing are the highest grossing exports from the Heath of Jernais, distributed all over Caelereth.
The Silk Dyers Guild typically has an excess of allia and xazure dyes, which they use to dye various other types of fabrics besides silk. These fabrics are imported from Milkengrad, Carmalad, or the Aellenrhim in Bolder. Occasionally a noble or other wealthy customer may also have some of their own fabrics sent to Jernais to be dyed in the blue or purple of their choice.
Best known for carving intricate animal and mythical motifs, furniture is the largest export from the predominantly Caltharian woodworkers. Most of the other wood products are to serve local purposes of the heath, such as new homes or windmills. The Jernais Carpentry Guild prefers to maintain a large and balanced variety of lumber in their tree farms, so new saplings are occasionally imported from Goltherlon Forest to replace damaged trees. Sometimes wood will also be imported from Goltherlon Forest if a particularly large supply of a specific type of tree is desired.
Hunting and Farming
A large amount of wheat is produced on the Heath of Jernais, and the excess is exported to other areas of Santharia. Baneg leather and beef, as well as banegasse cheese, are exported from Liosa. Deer meat is exported from Denring, which has a large population of hunters. Helcrani from the heath often travel to trading posts near the High Fores to exchange farm produce for ores and tools from the Thrumgolz dwarves. Golden rain, which is difficult to grow in the Heath of Jernais, is typically imported from the Aurora Plains. Many of the farmers also fish in the Vandrina River or at Ephirn's Lake.
The Erpheronian Nehtorian healers export much of the medicine they concoct from the plants on their farms and in the Heath. It is common for a Helcrani merchant in the heath to sell the Erpheronian medicines to the Thrumgolz dwarves and bring back Thrumgolz tools to sell to the healers.
The Vandrina villages, but especially the city of Jernais, are well known for the hospitality business. A significant amount of income is made for the Heath each year from travelers crossing the Milkengrad-Carmalad road. Both quaint and gaudy inns, taverns, and restaurants are to be found along the way, and traveling performers are often hired to put on eye-catching shows. Their highest import is liquor and beer from Helmondsshire hobbits in the Silvermarshes.
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
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.
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
healers, Grothar representing
Caltharian tree farmers, Jeyriall
representing Centoraurians from
the Aurora, and
Helcrani redeemed from the "Curse of
There are several other tales of myth and lore which take place in the Heath of Jernais, such as those listed below:
Aelder Dregs has a prophecy of great destruction within the Heath prior to the raid of Denring and three small villages. (See March of the Darkest Knight)
An old human woman has a prophecy/dream of her son being saved by Pherán’ephtaerín’s son Querín'Phár in the Heath of Jernais. It prompts Pherán’ephtaerín to go west to Jernais and ultimately fight at the "Battle of Four Swords".
“The Rescue of Kahlim Mirathar”, which takes place in the third Sarvonian war. The wounded soldier Kahlim is mysteriously saved after retreating into the pure heathland. (See the Watcher Phantasm, "Heroes in Battle" by Zhinwold Grith)