Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Feisty Flora

The woods west of Stutterheim are well known for their treacherous, cruel inhabitants and the perilous predators that stalk in their shadows, but these are far from the only threats. Even the plants of the cursed forests are eager to shed human blood.

Stinging Creepers - Pale ropey tendrils hang down from high branches. They slowly bend towards nearby creatures, and gently feel along their surface until they touch skin. If they touch the skin of an appendage it receives a painful sting and is paralyzed for 10-60 minutes. Stings to the head prevent speech and cause the eyelids to droop, imposing disadvantage on attacks. Severing the tendrils, releases a strong smelling chemical that attracts predators. 

The disconnected vines maintain their potency for many hours and are occasionally used by herbal healers as a surgical anesthetic (the sting being much preferable to the agony of an amputation). However, the smell increases in intensity as the creepers decay and so most savvy foresters are loathe to attract danger by keeping them around.
Charnel Tree - A black, leafless tree thrusts from the ground like a hand grasping at the sky. Upon approach, corpses can be seen impaled on thick branches with sharp, jagged ends. These branches  protrude upward from the trunk like needle-fingers.

The tree is paralyzed while any creature looks at it but if anyone turns  their back while within its reach, a branch will strike out and skewer them. The branch will return to its original position, with its victim hoisted aloft in the blink of an eye. Over the next few days, rootlings  will burrow into the flesh and digest it.

A close examination of the trunk will reveal an elaborate carved character. Defacing this character will banish the tree's animating spirit. Replicating the character in the trunk of another tree will cause it to be similarly possessed within a few weeks. 

The wood of a charnel tree will not burn, even if its spirit is exorcised.

Winkle Moss - In the freezing wastes, spongy pads of lilac colored moss occasionally grow in sheltered spots in the lee of rock outcroppings or amongst the roots of gargantuan ancient trees. The moss gives off a  gentle warmth and may appear to be an ideal resting place, out of the frigid wind.

Anyone reclining on the moss will gradually become drowsy, and drift into a soothing sleep, where they will dream peacefully (these dreams while vague and difficult to remember, foretell the future). They will not wake on their own and anyone trying to rouse them will have tremendous difficulty. After a few hours of sleep the moss will slowly grow up, engulfing and eventually smothering the sleeper. Any attempt to tear or disturb the moss will cause intense, terrifying and prophetic  dreams in those under its influence.

A sedative tea can be brewed from Winkle Moss. It tastes like chamomile and dust.


Vorpal Ferns - Long stiff fronds, colored a distinctive inky-green and displaying a glossy sheen are the identifying feature of Vorpal Ferns. Voluminous banks of these ferns grow symbiotically around the roots of many large deciduous trees in the murky black forests of the west.

The leaves of these ferns are entirely rigid and their edges, wickedly sharp. They slice through flesh like razor wire and easily pierce thick hides and tough leather. Falling into a clump is like being thrown down a  spike pit. If a na├»ve forest visitor, attempts to grasp a stalk, fingers may be lost.

If severed from its roots, a fern quickly degrades and becomes soft and harmless. If harvested carefully, they can be gathered into a comfortable sleeping mat.

Recently, protective hedges of vorpal ferns have become popular as defensive landscaping around the manses of the Stutterheim nobility.

Incense Daisies - The beautiful pale-pink petals of the incense daisy are one of the few contrasting notes of color in the dim, drab undergrowth of the western woods. These flowers omit a delicate, sweet scent and are collected by forest dwellers and fragrantly burned to pacify forest spirits.

The flowers are also extremely attractive as a food to most mammalian beasts. Unfortunately, the plants contain a sap which causes animals who consume them to become uncontrollably violent. Travelers must be careful to prevent their pack animals and hounds from foraging but may find it difficult to counter the flowers' allure.

Within an hour of eating incense daisies, an animal will have a psychotic episode, attacking any nearby creature, or if no creature is close, destroying the surrounding plants. These episodes are mercifully short, usually lasting just one to six minutes.

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