The Forest of Souls is the
largest wooded area in the Islands of R'unor, one of
the few which contains a large number of truly enormous trees and its girth
extends easily 200 strals
from one tip to the other. The forest is however, inhabited by many of
R'unor's more dangerous fauna, including the poisonous
crystal spider and the elusive
Description. The Forest of Souls is large, semi-tropical forest on the north-east cost of the island of R'unor. The main body of the forest is separated from a smaller branch by Yturren's Wake, along which abundant groves of baam-reed and windsong grow. This lesser branch has no trolls dwelling in it, and is more properly called the "Tinderwood".
The Forest of Souls
The Forest of Souls, its named derived from the scriptures and stories of the R'unorian Gods of the Earth, is some 200 strals in length from the north-west to the south-east tip. The forest is an old one, and the trees at the exterior quickly grow much larger and thicker than one might expect, attaining baffling heights. These vast trees tower overhead, darkening the forest so that the centre seems to be locked in a perpetual night.
The northern edge of the forest tends to be less humid than the southern, breezes from the sea tend to push the humidity further inland. At the edge of the forest, the ground is teeming with life. Ferns and grasses grow abundantly in the soil here, creepers crawl along the ground and flowers burst from between roots. Further in, the lack of light lends itself well to fungi. Mosses, mushrooms, and other shade lovers bloom from tree trunks, from fallen logs and holes in curiously porous rocks.
Heading south into the heart of the forest, all but the mosses and mushrooms have disappeared, leaving one surrounded by a layer of trees easily taller than most houses, and a canopy so far out of reach that it seems more like being underground than in a forest. Massive roots have broken rocks and earth here, making the footing treacherous and any sort of trail tends to wind between uprooted boulders and roots.
Wisps have been known to appear in this part of the forest, though the R'unorians believe them to be the souls of creatures not yet born.
The heart of the Forest is the territory of the forest trolls. While they are not numerous, the forest trolls guard this jealously, and seem to prefer the dark, rocky ground there.
The southern edge of the forest, along Yturren's Wake, is lined with groves of bamboo and windsong. The breeze makes these groves echo in odd harmonies, clacking and whistling in the wind where they can be heard far into the forest.
The smaller branch of the Forest of Souls is more properly called the Tinderwood. Occasional fires caused by the neighbouring volcanoes, seemed to have thinned these forests substantially when compared to the rest of the forest of Souls.
The north-western edge of the forest, along the banks of the river, continues the groves of bamboo, though strangely the windsong does not grow on the south bank of Y'turren's Wake, leaving it much more silent than the opposite shore.
The trees are neither as old or as blanketing as in the Forest of Souls, letting light through the canopy in great windows, or filtered easily through the leaves. The floor of the Tinderwood is a riotous burst of life. Mosses and ferns grow freely among the trees. New saplings sprout from wherever the sun filters. Wildflowers burst out of the earth. Some of the trees towards the middle of the forest bear great scars, large rents in the bark that have healed over the years to form cracks of gargantuan size.
Flora and fauna are abundant here, spiders or birds nest in the crooks and cracks of the massive trees, creeping flowers wind their way over branches, and small groves of ash fruit trees dot the floor of the forest. Wild deer roam freely through the forest, and small "flocks" of wyspflies float and flutter through the trees. Careful observers (or listeners) may hear the sound of gossipers birds in the branches. Most travellers bring sticks to check for burrows, as the ground is riddled in some places with holes that mark the dens of vashkoons, particularly around the roots of ash fruit trees.
Perhaps more important to be wary of are the vents in the forest floor. These seemingly harmless cracks tend to only project warm air, however during the late summer, dry, dead leaves or grasses, seed pods and other assorted detritus can block these vents. If one should get too hot, this plug of material is quite likely to ignite, and spread the fire throughout the forest. Because the trees in the Tinderwood are more widely spaced, and tend to be resilient towards fire, these blazes actually have an almost restorative effect. In some cases, the fire is actually necessary for certain plants to grow. The fire will rarely engulf more than a small section of the forest, so the outlying parts, towards Thalon and other settlements, are rarely affected.
The river that bisects the Forest of Souls is named Y'turren's Wake. According to the Book of Stones, the river was created shortly after the goddess M'rotha pronounced that all living things should age and die. Y'turren, the god of the forests, wept for the creatures of the forest until his tears became a spring that let loose a mighty river teeming with life.
From the waters of the river sprang all manner of green and growing things. The river is rather wide, reaching some 27 peds across at its narrowest point between the forests, and easily attaining 40 peds on some of the wider bends. The headwaters of Y'turren's Wake lie in the Stonetooth Mountains, to the west of the Forest of Souls.
Location. The Forest of Souls is found on the north-east coast of the Isle of R'unor, in the R'unorian Chain, due north-east from Nybelmar and west of the Crimson Isles.
People. The only
"people" living in the Forest of Souls are the Forest Trolls, believe to number
no more than a hundred individuals, spread throughout the center of the northern
forest. The trolls typically do not leave the forest's heart, except in rare
times of famine. There has only been one occasion in living memory when trolls
were encountered outside the boundaries of the Forest of of Souls, during the
Season of Storms in 1035 a.S. as they escaped the flooding in the low-lying
forest for the higher Most of these trolls died while outside of the forest, and
their corpses have since become petrified "statues" east of Stoneshallow For the
most part, however, the trolls seem content to
stay in the forest, where it is believed they survive on the population of wild
lurkers, and live under the roots of trees.
Climate. The greater part of the Forest of Souls is mildly humid, owing to the waters of the river along one side and the wind from the coast along the other. Heat is not typically a problem, except within the deeper reaches of the forest. Regular rainfalls throughout the year maintain an almost perpetual growing season for the plants within the forest.
Flora. The Forest of Souls bears a great division between its northern and southern parts. The banks north of Y'turren's Wake are dark and grim, the ancient trees there having had entire ages to grow old and strong. The whistling tunes of windsong and the clacking of baam-reed around the banks of the forest is an incredibly common sound amidst the animal calls. Further in, diverse forms of mushroom and moss find a way to make their home in the darkened forest.
The Tinderwood bears all manner of curious plants. Flowers that spread spores like mushrooms, leatherhide trees that bear glowing crystals instead of fruit, the flame-proof ash fruit tree, creeping vines with seed-pods that burst in the flames and riotous wildflowers all call this part of the forest theirs.
Fauna. The Forest of Souls is a diverse ecosystem, teeming with life of all shapes and sizes. Lightning-quick u'arel cats, dexterous vashkoons, graceful deer and even the mocking gossiper birds make their homes in the branches or among the roots of the numerous trees of the forest. Where this fauna lives greatly determines its kind. The creatures of the northern forest tend towards the extreme of either size.
Tiny crystal spiders, the brutish forest trolls or even wild lurker beetles, all capable of navigating the uneven terrain of the northern forest, or climbing through its ancient branches.
The periodic fires in the southern forest however, mean that those living there are often of a more nimble mindset. There is nothing that lives in the forest that cannot fly, climb or burrow its way away from the flames. Some very few creatures are actual capable of withstanding the intense blazes. The nigh-indestructible tuffchafer may rub shoulders with the dainty floating wyspflies, while the canopy is home to the gossiper birds, and even the gliding pshuta lizards.
Myth/Lore. The Forest of Souls itself is a place of great spiritual reverence for R'unorians. The curious orbs of light that have been observed floating within its borders are believed to be souls yet to be reborn. It also holds that the mountain on which M'rotha stood as she declared that all things must need die in their course is one of the Stonetooth mountains at the north-western edge of the forest.
The larger part of the Forest of Souls is avoided by most R'unorians, as the souls within are believed to be unsafe. One legend holds that souls in the forest aren't waiting be reborn, but unable, and must steal a shape for themselves. According to legend, the trees keep the souls from escaping the confines of the forest. For this the trees at the edge are occasionally used for temples doorways, to prevent the entrance of malevolent spirits. Members of the temples of W'ri'caņe will occasionally make journeys to the banks of the river and erect small cairns there in reverence to the spirits.