Black Blood Trees
Black blood trees refer to a variety of black trees with origins tied to Althedeus, a chaos demon. Black blood trees produce black fruit (originally black apples) made of flesh and blood. Their other properties are partially dependent on the specific iteration the tree is tied to.
Preamble: After Effects of All the Lich King's Men
Events during Ivastaen of 5113 (May 2013)
After the defeat and destruction of Barnom Slim, some of the blight he had cursed the land with -- in the form of diseased murky black pools around and in Wehnimer's Landing -- persisted. No matter what the townspeople did, they were unable to cure the land.
One of the local councilmen, Deylan, sent for the Dark Priest Therendil, an Adherent of Marlu who decked himself in two tentacles growing from his scalp, in order to help cure the land. Therendil soon arrived to do his bidding; he owed Deylan a debt for freeing him from slavery earlier in his life, and this was to score them as even.
After investigating the pools with one of his tentacles, Therendil announced that the pools were forged by chaos and born by blood, and that to cure the land would require blood. He further indicated he would need ten rangers and their companions, noting that their bond with nature was essential, in order to cure the ten interconnected pools.
On the indicated night for the curing ritual, Therendil eventually ended up with ten volunteers: Padaxus, Torverner, Marinae, Taloin, Hoy, Greycrown, Malaketh, Lana, Tykeara, and Nuadjha, as well as a large number of observers. They proceeded to the first pool, where Therendil cut and, with his tentacle, took blood from Padaxus and his honey badger companion, and the wounds on both sealed themselves after the blood was taken. Therendil smeared the blood onto his palms. He then asked Mayor Walkar for "your wicked", whereupon a prisoner was escorted in by guards. Therendil touched his bloodied palm to the pool, and as he drew away, the stain of shadow on the pool peeled away from it, sticking to Therendil's touch and engufling his arm. He touched the prisoner with that same hand, causing the shadows to transfer to the prisoner, who was summarily devoured -- with much screaming -- by those same shadows.
Despite the horrific nature of this ritual, and the protests of some regarding using the prisoners in this manner, Therendil continued to the next pool and followed the same ritual, this time with the next volunteer and another 'wicked' prisoner. The ritual was the same through all of the volunteers, until the last, Tykeara; instead of a simple cut across her chest, Therendil drove his dagger deep into her gut and sliced upward in a cruel manner (somewhat like gutting a fish). Upon moving the shadows from the pool to the last of the wicked prisoners, Therendil declared the ritual complete and that the land would heal itself.
Events here spanning Phoenatos of 5113 through early 5115 (August 2013 - early 2015)
Mayor Walkar and Deylan requested that Therendil, at the time still believed to be a Priest of Marlu, plant black seeds behind Moot Hall. Of course, these being black seeds meant that there were not your typical black oak seeds; instead they had been infused with dark magic. However, the interest in them was that the seeds would grow into black trees with apples of flesh and blood akin to beating hearts, with the intent to provide Walkar with sustenance so that he would no longer need to eat the flesh of people -- and could instead subsist on the apples.
After a short closure and construction within Moot Hall, its orchard was re-opened to the citizenry, though a significant change had taken place: the trees now there were full grown black blood trees and already producing their uniquely fleshy fruit. It was not until later that Therendil was revealed to be a member of the Disciple of the Shadows, and that the trees were infused with magic and shadow that connected them to the Shadow Realm and Althedeus.
The trees had other specific characteristics that made them unusual. For example, when a tree was cut down, two would grow back in their place; some attacks on them would result in the trees defending themselves; and during invasions, the trees would "pull" corpses down into the ground and move them to the orchard.
Over time, Althedeus used the trees to corrupt Walkar further, spread his power, and ultimately have others "water" trees -- done via blood sacrifice. A handful of these adventurers became devout "caretakers" of the trees, sacrificing their blood on a regular basis to feed the trees, several of them quite intent upon assisting Althedeus' vision. This "shadow" energy was channeled below Melgorehn's Reach, which is where Althedeus planned to perform his "final ritual" to cross over into Elanthia.
This was not to be, however, for Aralyte and many adventurers banded together to defeat Althedeus, eventually snuffing out his power by unraveling his very existence.
Upon the unraveling of Althedeus, the trees did not, strangely, disappear and instead continued to thrive. But some of their behavior did change; for example, chopping the trees down only resulted in a single sapling instead of two, indicating their diminished power. Despite this, some individuals continued to regularly feed the trees.
Additionally, during the prior events and in the interim before coming months, several individuals -- some with Althedeus' encouragement prior to his demise -- went so far as to attempt to cultivate the trees outside of the confines of Wehnimer's Landing.
Events here spanning Ivastaen of 5115 through Koaratos 5115 (May 2015 - July 2015)
Not long after Althedeus' unraveling, glistening black roots began to appear around and outside of Wehnimer's Landing, as well as down through Burrow Way, eventually moving toward Moot Hall. Accompanied by black wood wights, these roots -- ostensibly black blood tree roots -- were attacking with more vigor than had previously been seen. They were driven away, but then they were spotted in the Deadfall, which had parted open again, and cut through there as well. Additionally, a collapsed hole in the earth was soon found, with a bloodstained helm and tabard in it. The hole connected to Burrow Way, and when the articles were sung to, they revealed the story of a Hendoran knight entombed in a mass of black roots, his skin flayed and bloody, as he was dragged through a tunnel and into darkness.
Following these initial findings, reports continued to pour in regarding missing townspeople. Roots were also attacking adventurers, often dragging them to the ground, and at times poisoning them.
Pylasar arrived with a tiny black root and asked Dergoatean to scrye it, leading to the discovery of roots overrunning Lich's Landing. There, they fed from cocooned corpses -- town residents that they had kidnapped. The roots were centralized in a thick nest holding the heart of the maw.
Initially, Pylasar hoped to use Grishom Stone's ghostfire wyrdling from Wyrdeep to siphon off ghostfire as a weapon. However, when Pylasar brought the ghostfire whyrdling to town to ask for help with the roots, after some time, she said she had spoken to her Master, then lit everyone in the area on fire and flitted away; the answer to that request was clearly 'no'.
The Deadfall started to teem with wights and similar spirits, the influence of the roots growing, and yet no one had been able to directly attempt to destroy the maw. Pylasar had the brilliant (insane?) idea of using a pylon to blow a hole into the ground that lead down to Lich's Landing. Pathway to the underground made, adventurers soon found that the nest and heart of the maw was located across a hidden bridge in Banshee Tower. During this foray into Lich's Landing, Corpse Row and Banshee Tower were all that were accessible, with the remainder of Lich's Landing still covered in rubble. Of significance, the maw was not just the source of the rapidly spreading black blood trees and blood-sucking roots but was also releasing spores. Attempts to interact with the maw only left one with a handful of slime (later indicated to be extraplanar in origin). Adventurers were encouraged to help cull the creatures in Lich's Landing, which ranged from undead along Corpse Row to specters and roots in the tower to dark tree spirits and roots near the maw. The potential for the sky to eventually be covered in a "sea of spores" also existed, inciting a need to find a solution to the roots sooner than later.
Following the discovery of the maw, a nighthawk arrived from the Wyrdeep, warning of an impending attack on Wehnimer's Landing, an attack which soon came in the form of spiders, shaman, and druids.
Pylasar shared that he had studied the Palestra Blade Aralyte's work, and that he thought he knew a way to carving the maw out of Elanthia by magic, then removing it from the valence and placing it in another, which would effectively cut off the lifeblood/shadow of the roots and trees and lead to their withering death. This initial plan, dubbed "Operation P", would have required the use of blue crystals charged on Melgorhen's Reach, opaline dust, crystalline chalk, and the spirit of volunteers. There was a great deal of disagreement regarding moving forward with this plan, much of it revolving around the irresponsibility of dumping their problem onto someone else, which could endanger said plane and/or enrage beings from said plane and ultimately lead to further problems for Elanthia. When Pylasar took votes for whether or not to move forward with his plan, there was far more support than opposition for Operation P. Pylasar then asked for help collecting the necessary items, as well as varied assistance during the preparation and execution of the spell.
Attacks continued to plague the town, with roots, dark tree spirits, and spores attacking. Eggs that had been hanging out in the Wyrdeep hatched, flooding the battle with arachnids. Desperate times!
Several adjustments to the plan were soon made. First, Lady Lylia Rashere sought out and spoke with Harrower Ersix, of the Extrachthonic Cartographers' Guild, who agreed to oversee the planar shift aspect of the plan. In return, the Harrower would be given a spore sample from the maw, as well as the opportunity to monitor the interior of the Deadfall following its sealing via use of an experimental planar scrying device. Second, the final destination of the maw was adjusted from an unknown valence to, after travel through another valence, back to Elanthia -- in the heart of the Deadfall. Once in the Deadfall, Briarstorm and his clan of wild elf druids of Wyrdeep would use their magic to create a barrier around the entirety of the Deadfall to seal it closed. Concerns about the large number of roots beneath the Deadfall that connected to town were noted, but the hope was that the Deadfall's sealing would eventually starve not only those roots but also the maw itself.
On the eve of the plan's execution, town was inevitably under heavy attack, and many adventurers stayed above ground to help with defenses there. Another group of adventurers traveled down to the maw to assist Pylasar and Ersix with their efforts. During the ritual to transport the maw through another valence, the rift that was opened shifted through several valences before stabilizing at the Shadow Realm (of Althedeus).
Valence 1 (Grik'tyr): Through the gash of energy appears a vast expanse of endless plains, with boulders and slopes of scree. Shallow canyons cut along the ground, darkness swirling in their small depths. The sky appears like a rolling sea of grey. A great host of squat demons soar through the air, their broad leathery wings carrying them off into the distance.
Valence 2 (Elemental Confluence): Through the gash of energy appears a sky that is aglow from the heat and light from a giant raging inferno that rises above the peaks of a rocky mountain range, reminiscent of a sunset, albeit an eerie and unnatural one. The fiery radiance throws heavy shadows across the craggy hills and rutted ground. The enormous fire seems to be slowly expanding.
Valence 3 (a valence populated by the Ithzir): Through the gash of energy appears a strange obsidian pyramid huge in size, surrounded by a lush forest with thick canopies that throw the area in a constant state of shadows. Forming a half-circle before the base of the large temple are a number of slender hooded figures, their bodies turned away from you, but the backs of their garments each emblazoned with a twelve-pointed gold star.
Valence 4 (Kezmon Isle (Elanthia)): Through the gash of energy appears a wide island surrounded by endless stretches of dark blue water. High atop a hill is a stone keep overlooking a wide swathe of buildings, homes, and a series of docks. The faint image of banners flap on top of the keep, their crest or symbol indiscernible. Humanoid figures, too far to capture great detail, move about the buildings like tiny ants.
Valence 5 (Althedeus' Shadow Realm): Monstrous forms rise from ground, each a parody of reality. Blackened skeletal trees sink fingerbone roots into the ground and are topped with leaves of dried skin, while broken statues stand aside, the stone from which they are constructed crumbling away to reveal corded and bleeding muscle beneath. Even the wind is a mockery, carrying whispers and voices that both taunt and plead with wordless cries.
Of note, shadows lifted off the skin of various persons when this stabilization occurred, and, additionally, Aralyte's soulstone fell out of the rift. The maw was "levitated through the rift, and then threaded through another rift to the Deadfall". Following this, the area where the heart of the maw had been carved out of and the surrounding ceiling collapsed, not only trapping adventurers but also further burying Lich's Landing. Adventurers were forced to dig their way out of the rubble to arrive back nearer to the surface -- but were unable to return to the ruined town of undead; the way to Lich's Landing was effectively barred to the common adventurer.
When the maw arrived in the Deadfall, adventurers there helped the druids with ensuring it was fully contained within the Deadfall, which was soon sealed up, but not before Ersix's scrying device was slipped within.
As hypothesized, the roots around town shriveled up and withered away, and the black blood trees soon faded from visible sight. The orchard in Moot Hall was renovated and replanted with traditional apple trees, effectively removing even the easy reminder of the danger the black blood trees had posed.
Goblyn's Garden, Black Blood Orchard
Established Koaratos 5117 (July 2017), currently accessible
Just off of Goblyn's Garden, Goblyn has a small orchard with various black blood saplings, as well as six young but mature black blood trees, four of which produce black apples, while the other two produce black oranges.
These trees are similar to but not entirely the same as earlier iterations of the black blood trees. While these are grown from the first generation seed stock of the original black blood trees, Goblyn has modified these seeds. Additionally, in order to help the seeds germinate, a very specific blood magic ritual was performed by a small handful of individuals, and a donated remnant of Althedeus' shadows was used to infuse the trees with chaos magic that, while of the same origin, ostensibly does not have the same potency that they did when Althedeus was directly fueling them given his unraveled state.
Some other major characteristic differences: the quasi-sentient trees show affection for those who regularly feed them. Feeding is not limited to just blood sacrifice; these trees will also accept mana and life force (spirit) sacrifices. The flesh of the fruit will morph to represent the person who plucks the fruit if the tree is familiar enough with that person. Taking the bark from a tree will cause the tree to, in turn, take some flesh from the taker. Of note, when Goblyn is visible, it seems as if the trees share the benefits of sacrifices with her.
Perhaps most importantly, the trees in this orchard are not tied into the old root system that caused so many issues in the past. Goblyn has been meticulous in ensuring that the roots do not get out of control -- not only in modifying their function but also in her choice of location for the trees to grow in.
Of note: during the early parts of Olaesta 5118 (April 2018), the minor time fluctuations that are occasionally felt in the orchard became far more prevalent and noticeable, eventually spreading across sections of the continent. As this phenomenon occurred, the shadows and chaotic energy in the trees were away leeched at times, though returned in all cases except those of the two black orange-producing trees. The two outliers became noticeably leeched of color over a week's time, and on the evening of the 10th of Olaesta, they were killed off:
You also see: a dead white tree and a rotted dead white tree split down the middle >l tree This white tree is splintered all over, riddled with cracks that render it no longer whole. The bark is infested with maggots that blend in with the unusual color -- a sickly shade of white that seems to have been leeched of all manner of essence.
Single Known Still-Thriving Offshoots
Current as of Fashanos 5118 (February 2018).
There is a sapling growing in a small skull planter in Mayor Cruxophim's office. It is named Fred.
There is a sapling, originally planted in Talador prior to the Chaston Effect (aka the destruction of Talador during Eyes of the Dawn), growing in the Bleaklands (because, yeah, that's a great place to have it growing, with all of that crazy magic...).