Concerning Extrachthonic Flora and Chthonic Concerns (essay)
Advisor of History, Occult Lore, and Magic
Lord Xorus Kul'shin
To The Right Honourable Mayor of the Landings:
In accordance with your request regarding the recently unearthed chthonic realm below the township --- or rather the exhumation of the sepulchre of the late Barnom Slim, known in the local vernacular as "Lich's Landing", the thralldom contiguous with its domain --- I have conducted an inquiry into the good works of poison and pie shop proprietress Goblyn with respect to its hazards. In light of the purview of her business and legerdemain, it stands to reason that only ill-conceived and reckless dangers are relevant, the kind which are likely to be unanticipated with unforeseen consequences of major impact.
While this is hardly under the legal jurisdiction of Wehnimer's Landing, it is certainly under its jurisdiction. It is appropriate to be concerned with the structural integrity of the caverns beneath the sediment layer of the town, consisting of fluvial deposits and what must be a deeper basin until the bedrock, given that prior administrations have willfully collapsed these subterranean spaces in a most uncontrolled fashion and subsequently abandoned them.
Grand Magister Dennet Kestrel of the Hall of Mages would undoubtedly concur with this assessment. The earth mages of the Rooted Earth society of House Illistim have suffered considerably repairing the shocked foundations of the Shining City from the defeat of their own lich. But this township hardly has the benefit of housing the people who invented veniom plating, and so quite literally able to levitate a city as the very foundation if necessary, especially given our contents have considerably less worth. Ironically, they seem to be having their own poisoned pie issues, for which they undoubtedly have no experts.
(A) Preliminary Investigation
In the two years since the removal of "the shadowy maw" of the blood apple trees to the Deadfall, the extensive root structure through the soil horizons upon our river basin has decayed drastically, thereby placing the town of Wehnimer's Landing in considerable danger of sinking or washing out into Darkstone Bay. The unknown extent of the geologic dislocations from prior catastrophes of human causation was of legitimate concern to the citizenship, both living and unliving, given that only the western side of the lichdom was known to possess any degree of structural soundness when it was last inspected. This was investigated by Councilman Pylasar and Harrower Ersix Severus Faendryl of the Extrachthonic Cartographer's Guild in 5115 Modern Era.
It is surprising and unfortunate that more central and riverine adjacent structures such as Shanty Town, House Phoenix, and the Temple of Lorminstra had not yet disappeared into sinkholes. These dangers to the wider town have been obviated through the interventions of Madame Kygar, who has demonstrated considerable sight of both the fore and hind kinds, as well as other more esoteric varieties. Nevertheless, some concerns have been raised about her horticultural pursuits, however odd and contextually blinded. The following report will undoubtedly assuage the worries of the masses, undoubtedly many of whom have lingering superstitions regarding the bathhouse, with no offense intended toward the Mayor.
(B) The Garden
The proprietress has evidently made the commendable gesture of moving her workshop for cultivating toxic herbs and flora outside of the jurisdiction of town. This will spare us much frivolous litigation. The garden consists of a wide variety of exotic, parasitic, or otherwise extremely poisonous plants. Goblyn has constructed it as a symmetric pattern set in a logarithmic spiral around a blackened center, much like a so-called "golden ratio" expanding outward in geometric progression. The individual plots are self-similarly curved in a manner strikingly reminiscent to the chambers of a nautilus shell, undoubtedly inspired by her vivisection experiments on lesser and higher life forms.
Surrounding this spiral is a circle of seven trees of similar nature to the garden. Four of these varieties are unremarkable to the limited extent that they exist as surface breeds elsewhere in this world. However, these varieties were specifically grown in the total absence of sunlight, subsisting on the pale wisps of the cavern and the "fairy fire" of its luminescent moss. It is doubtful that they would survive on the surface without the special soil in which they are planted.
The three others were elaborated upon in some detail by Goblyn herself. Of these only one is extrachthonic in origin, while another originates in a mutation subjected to the environment of another valence, and the last is conventional cross-breeding and grafting of Elanthian varieties of the same genus with some artifice of magic in addition. The extrachthonic "thew bark tree" originates in another plane of existence, but it is killed by exposure to sunlight. Moreover, it is very difficult to cultivate at all, as it must be grafted onto a living warm-blooded body. When the roots have grown through this host, it will only grow when planted in flesh.
(B.I) The Herbs and Flora
The various forms of plants in the nautilus shell pattern might be predominantly grouped by color along the spectrum. With the exception of the jakkalskos which is cultivated for its hideous odor, these are extremely toxic and make fine ingredients for poisons. These are not otherworldly things, and may well suffice from magical lighting. However, the mawflowers are indigenous to the rift, which is a temporal warp. This is remarkable as the dessicated patches are unusually vibrant, which on the balance of probability given other considerations, must have originated as extrachthonic flora from the time flux valence of Lorae'tyr.
While it is notable it is hardly noteworthy, aside from travel to Lorae'tyr being forbidden, subject to Shieltine's Ward. It is a violation of Faendryl law, and an executable offense. Therefore it would be prudent to warn our Faendryl citizens that Goblyn is engaging in illegal works and possesses texts which must be burned when one travels abroad from the empire. It would be inconsiderate for them to be subject to execution by the wandering Palestra by accidental association.
Flowery Glossary of Death:
- Purple, Green: Wolfsbane and autumn mandrake mixed with torban. Purple flowers upon green leaves. (Heart failure)
- Purple, Black, Red: Mountain laurel shrubs over mawflowers and decaying strawberry plants. Purple over black and red. (Convulsions)
- Red, Orange, Blue: Jequirity with blue sweet pea. Red and blue berries over green leaves, under orange jakkalskos. (Ricin substitute; paralysis)
- Purple, Blue, Green: Crushed and dessicated flora, unaccountably vibrant. (Lorae'tyr)
- White, Green, Red: Doll's eye. White flowers over green leaves, white berries over red stems. (Heart failure)
- Yellow, Purple, Red: Yellow jessamine and bittersweet nightshade. (Strychnine substitute; most everything)
The jakkalskos is further unusual in that it does not rely on light for sustaining itself. It is instead a parasite that is most surely feeding upon the roots of the manchineel and sandbox trees in the outer ring. The charred interior is seemingly a matter of design. It calls to mind the vistas of Lorae'tyr where forests will burn to the ground and become replaced with meadows over mere moments, and the same overall structures such as buildings consisting of individual parts separately fluctuating through time out of synchrony, reversing the irreversibility of chaotic decay and entropy. This is exceptionally relevant as Goblyn has tampered quite extensively with the workings of time in this cavern.
(B.II) The Trees
The outer ring consists of four trees that are more or less conventional, and three which are exotic but can only be reproduced with tremendous difficulty. Of the conventional varieties, the manchineel and sandbox trees are tropical with caustic milky white sap, where the fruit of the former is toxic and the latter is explosive with internal pressures. The wrotwood and strangler are tropical fig banyans that germinate from the high crevices of other trees and grow downwards, the former being peculiar to Feywrot Mire in the far south. Wrotwood sap is a powerful soporific that inflicts uncontrollable convulsions. It is noteworthy given the prior context that these trees are not all saplings, but are grown in spite of having been recently planted.
Of the exotic varieties, it was previously mentioned that the thew bark tree exploits its host in much the same way, except it grows only upon flesh. The clotting willow tree is merely a willow tree with a mutation that occurs rarely when cultivated in the dark valence of Shien'tyr. The black chokecherry tree is a botique cross-breed of ordinary chokecherry trees, where the astringent taste is instead accompanied by actual choking and death. Curiously, its black sap if consumed will make the victim murderous, attempting to choke anyone around them.
These three trees were designed to be able to grow in the darkness. The purely extrachthonic one with its edible flesh bark is incapable of spreading on the surface, and requires special grafting to living flesh. The clotting willow tree can only be made under difficult conditions, and is otherwise harmless, merely possessing the wonderful aesthetic of weeping blood. The special chokecherry tree variety is capable of growing on the surface in temperate climates, but it is exceedingly implausible that it could breed with others without willful intervention. Concerns over their relation to the blood apple trees and threats to the surface are entirely unwarranted.
(C) The Orchard
In contrast to the garden, the black oily trees and saplings in the orchard are clearly related to the original blood apple trees, producing blapples and blood oranges. They will feed upon blood, flesh, and life forces. However, these unnatural hybrids of oak trees not only do not steal bodies, they rebuff those who have not bonded with them. Harrower Ersix took samples from the more familiar strain and confirmed the extrachthonic origins of the maw. These ones do not share the behavior of burying cocoons of bodies or forming a nexus with a shadowy blood maw. Nor do they possess the violent red-veined pale white spores which formed directly from the blood in the maw. At the risk putting too fine a point on it: The purpose of these trees is, quite simply, to be an orchard for harvesting exotic fruits. It is a statement of the obvious.
The original trees were fashioned by the Marluvian priest Therendil using the blood of ten rangers, who wished to break a blight curse on the forest left over from the lich king. The seeds were planted in Moot Hall to feed blood to the late Mayor Walkar Wellington. These were co-opted and fueled by a primordial being of chaos --- known variously as Althedeus, Grak'na'Den, the Maw of the Void, the Father of the Black Heavens, amongst other things --- who has since been destroyed.
These trees proliferated and survived the demise of the shadows through their connexion to their blood maw, which Harrower Ersix speculated will continue to evolve into some higher form. Once severed at the roots from their power sources, even this most invasive species rapidly died out. There is no reason to believe these variants of Goblyn's pose any individual threat to those who do not go out of their way to be harmed. Moreover, their relation to Lich's Landing is incidental at best, a matter of proximity and historicity. The most dangerous trees in her workshop are those that exist naturally in our own world. Those are all tropical plants which cannot survive in the temperate climate above ground.
Considering the original strain still exists not only in private collections but also the wilds, most recently spotted in the most unstable Bleaklands, it is strange indeed to be excessively concerned about a comparatively benign strain far removed from living victims. Worse still, the shadowy blood maw itself was only moved to the nearby Deadfall forest, where it was sealed with druidic wardings by the Wyrdeep elves. This is troubling considering the wardings that had been erected by the druids of the elves in the neighboring Red Forest failed only a year later. It was an unavoidable complication owing to a rare celestial alignment interacting badly with instabilities issuing from the Elemental Confluence. The Reach poses similar hazards. It is much like a mother worrying about moldering strawberries while ignoring the wolfsbane at her door.
(D) Concluding Unscientific Postscript
Having dispensed with the trivialities and baseless moral panic, more serious considerations should be reviewed. Goblyn has drastically warped time in the restoration of Lich's Landing. This temporal reversion has effectively eliminated any concerns over the structural soundness of the cavern or known damages to the buildings from prior interventions by erasing them from history. For further assessment of this point I will defer to Pylasar. Those of the undead who have not been accosted by fortune hunters and zealots are unusual works of necromancy in that they are docile to the living. It is my opinion that Goblyn is attempting to construct a soul transmogrification device made from purified crystals that will allow her to restore, at the very least, some form of higher consciousness and social order to the lost souls of this dark mirror world.
I have no interest in discussing the trade secrets of this work as it is strikingly similar to my own interests in the Broken Lands. The precise details of her quest, in any event, are largely a matter for speculation. Nevertheless, in the moment these undead are utterly directionless, with no lich king to obey. There is no pathway through which they could plausibly escape their underground tomb. Access to Burrow Way is totally collapsed. It is most difficult to reach by physical routes or even preternatural methods. Indeed. Tactically speaking, it is far more secure and durable than the surface town, which would be better used as a decoy.
Lich's Landing is superior in most respects, whereas its namesake has been rebuilt countless times. Should Goblyn fail in her endeavor to fix what is "broken" with the necropolis, I recommend moving the worthwhile aspects of town below ground. The orphanage is an especially useless waste of resources given that the children would be far better at pulling themselves up by their bootstraps if they were dead. Moreover, the undead would produce no orphans of their own, only those of breeders and feeders. Their memories could be restored with time, so to speak, or even replaced with the better memories of others.
Whether such a crystalline machination would exert a singular will upon the masses in the manner of a kiramon brood mother would depend greatly on the nature of its construction. In this eventuality it would hardly matter, as such an artifact could surely transform our physical bodies in all sorts of exotic ways, possibly even displacing us wherever we wish in space or history. In the form of a wandering or transplanar unnatural hybrid such as the vesperti, we would gain the freedom of coming and going between worlds as we please, which the grand magister himself would admit is worthy of envy. The Landings are, after all, monuments to freedom.
Notarized by imprimatur of pelican signet:
5117 Modern Era