Nybelmarian Giant Marsh-Oak, also known by its elvish name "Ulintherá'ránn"
(which translates roughly to "Oak Queen"), is a typical tree of both salt- and
fresh-water marches, known to be found in
nearly all such areas on Nybelmar. It can
reach a rather impressive size, and sports a massive trunk with equally large
branches, making this a tree that provides quality wood for many tribes all over
the continent. An exception to this being those found in the
Venlaken Enclave, where the foul
waters of the marshes corrupt its heart,
and twist its form.
The Nybelmarian Giant Marsh-Oak, is, as its name suggests, one
of the largest trees to be found on the continent. Supporting large, thick
branches with its enormous trunk, the Marsh-Oak is one of the best suppliers of
oak wood available.
A slow growing tree, like most other oaks, the Marsh-Oak
may live up to several hundreds of years, specimens of at least six hundred
years have been found, and the humans of the
Drifting Woods claim to have even older trees still growing in their strange
The bark of the Giant Marsh-Oak is of a brownish-grey hue, and becomes more
rough as the tree ages. The adult tree’s surface is often riddled with ridges
and clefts, allowing for an easy climb for most beings.
The trunk is much wider, proportionally, than other trees, something not unusual
for various oak types, and can, as the
oak reaches its maximum height of sixty or even seventy
peds, reach a good six to
seven peds in radius.
Equally large are the tree's massive branches, which will turn and twist their
way into the light above, and provide excellent nesting places for many large
animals, such as the Sev’tin, or Long-Armed Monkey, and the chorakee birds, as
well as being able to support human structures
These trees are normally densely set with leaves, which are shaped much like
that of the common oak, but more elongated. The leaves are
nearly stem-less, and sprout in small clusters form the twigs and branches of
the tree. Young leaves will be of a bright, vivid green, that dulls with age to
a more dark green hue, appearing to be slightly covered with dust.
Under the frightful conditions of the
Venlaken Lowlands, the Marsh-Oak takes on an entirely different shape. While
still able to grow into a huge tree, its limbs are now swollen and crooked, with
signs of decaying and rotting patches everywhere. The leaves are fewer, and
those that persist are magnified and blotches with disease. The flowers however,
suffer the most, developing an intense stench, and growing in even larger
clusters than usual. the nuts are large and wrinkled, often sporting black
patches of rot before they have fully ripened. It is not at all unusual to find
clusters of nuts slowly turning into black goo while still attached to the tree.
The Giant Marsh-Oak may well be found all over
Nybelmar, growing in marshes, on river
banks, floodplains, and swampy areas. It spreads rather quickly, and often forms
small clusters when it finds a favourable area. However, most attempts at
planting these seeds by humans have failed,
for they survive in a dry environment for a very short period only, making
transport of the seeds difficult, and on longer distances, completely
In the Drifting Woods, these trees are found more solitary, possibly because of
the tides that move around the seeds much further than the stagnant
waters of the marshes. They will usually
grow upward rather fast, and spread out after they reach the upper layers of the
canopy. As the years pass, lesser trees standing too close to the
oak will die due to lack of light and nourishment, as the
Marsh-Oak invades, and eventually occupies their living space. Would one be able
to see the woods from above the canopy, the older Marsh-Oaks will be easily
found, standing out from the rest of the woods by forming a great bulge on the
sea of leaves, making them excellent landmarks for an experienced tree climber.
The Marsh-Oaks of the southern Venlaken
Enclave area are quite another sight. There, in the desolate, putrid marshes
of the Tears of Askanis, or the Lowlands, as they are more commonly called,
these elsewhere bold and strong trees are, like all life in those
waters, twisted into ghastly reflections
of their normal self. Although they can live to be quite old even in these
hostile lands, there are much fewer seedlings than would be expected, and the
Marsh-Oaks there are almost always solitary trees.
The Giant Marsh-Oak has many useful qualities, that are happily exploited by
those who have access to them. First of all, the bark may be dried and, when
torn into rough fibres, provides an excellent form of tinder, set aflame by even
the smallest amount of sparks.
The wood then is, like that of nearly every oak
species, hard and durable, used for high-quality furniture, building, and many
other examples of woodcrafting. Its light, nearly white colour
is appreciated especially by the tribes of the southern rainforests, even though
the humid climate conditions turn everything crafted from this wood that would
be used outdoors a much darker, near-black colour within
a year, earning it the local name of ‘Shadow-wood’. As result of this change,
clever artists and craftsmen have taken to create wonderful ornaments and
furniture with a variety of grey shades by using pieces of wood that have been
outdoors for varying lengths of time.
Next are the leaves, which are used as cattle fodder frequently, although they
are usually not harvested for this purpose specifically, but rather taken from
the trees that were cut down to provide wood. Many types of tamed beasts favour
this food, even though their wild cousins are rarely able to reach them. An
exception is the krog of the southern
jungles, as it refuses to eat these leaves when they are offered, possibly due
to the slightly bitter taste, although other animals appear to like it.
Lastly, the nut-like seeds of the Marsh-Oak may be eaten roasted, or ground to a
paste and baked into a hard, bread-like substance, with a slightly bitter
aftertaste that is liked by the inhabitants of the Drifting Woods. Should one
ever have the chance, one must taste the delightful small pastry they make from
this nut, which is often little more than a hard shell of Marsh-Oak nuts, filled
with various wild fruits or spiced fish, and served best when still warm.
The practice of building inside these trees is less commonly known. The
inhabitants of the Drifting Woods, as well as the
Krean, and various other tribes that
dwell exclusively in (rain) forests will use the incredible strength of these
trees to their advantage, and construct dwellings and other buildings safely
nested between the branches.
The flowers of the Giant Marsh-Oak are small and green, consisting of a mere
four, tiny leaves around an even smaller base, and are pollinated by small flies
and other insects during the night. They are set in large clusters, on a long,
communal stem, dangling about a span below their branch. As the flowers are
pollinated, this stem grows more rigid and thick, in order to support the
increasing weight of the nuts that will be forming there. With the tree
flowering in the month of Awakening
Earth, the Marsh-Oak nuts are ripe from the beginning of the month of the
Sleeping Dreameress, but will
often stay on the tree until the next storm season to be shaken loose, fall
down, and hopefully be carried away by the
water to a safe place to take root.
The known problems with transporting living seeds for
human use probably originates in the way the
nuts are usually spread about by nature. Depending on
water to carry the seeds away from the
parent tree, these nuts do not need to be extremely
water-conserving, and will dry out within
a few days. Attempts to transport them inside
water containers have repeatedly failed for unknown reasons, but it is
thought that the seeds need to be in open
water, with fresh water flowing around
them at all times in order to survive a long journey. Therefore, seedlings are
transported instead, although this greatly reduces the profit that can be made
on a load, as they occupy much more space than the nuts would have.
On the borderlands of the Venlaken
Enclave, in particular those areas that lie next to the river Zylos, local
belief has it that the poor, twisted shapes of the Marsh-Oaks within the
Venlaken Enclave are caused by the
mad dancing faeries, who are
supposed to sleep invisibly within its tortured branches.
Of course, no-one would dare even to approach the trees, and risk unleashing the
mad dancing faeries upon
themselves. The description given in this entry is therefore gathered by careful
observance from a safe distance, and broken branches found after a severe storm.