Running along the northwestern coast of the continent of Pelia is a long strip of dense forest, some of the most pristine on the planet. From the Bilasáano Peninsula and Amphia Island to the ancient confederacy of Méestok, the climate is Mediterranean and frankly beautiful; the rue-berry orchards of Tsomakáani, smelling of lemon and mint and pine, are a must-see (or rather a must-smell) on any tour of the planet. The interior, not as dry as it would be on Earth thanks to the local climate, is covered in a patchwork of hardy shrubs and lazily-spreading evergreen-plum trees, and fed by great rivers coming up from the south. Further east, from the kingdom of Llimper Broin to the great polis of Ramvadoi, is an unbroken temperate rainforest running along the coast, devolving into just plain massive forested regions as one moves inland. Of all the trees here, just like on earth, the redwoods are the largest; there are mahogany giants deep in the woods as tall as skyscrapers, and older than any human civilization. In these woods, creatures like nothing else on Ajjamah roam–giant sloths, pouch-dogs, flutterbies as large as two human hands together, bird-apes like the condor-mandrill, salamanders-of-paradise. The rivers flow from the southern mountains, and crisscross the landscape. The winds are strong, and blow from the sea; it is a rare day when one cannot smell the waves, mixed with the heady scent of the forest. Small wonder, then, that the word for the region in the Redwood Botanist languages translates as “sea-land”–a name shared and translated by the two colonial powers in the area, the Icemannic queens and the Irthironian king.
There are two major ethnicities living in these forests, each with their own connection to it. The Dryads are the older race, and perfected the idea of the city-state nearly 2,000 years ago only to mess with it time and again. Their Gift is a psychic bond of sorts with a specific tree, chosen by ritual on cult processions into sacred groves or the wild woods. They merge with the trees; while capable of fashioning human bodies for themselves, as time goes on they will become more and more drawn to their tree, and will eventually become incapable of removing themselves more than about 100 metres from it. (That said, for the most part the cult processions take people in very early around the peak of their lives, so most of them look uniformly young and beautiful.) If their human bodies are hurt or killed, they will need time to rebuild (usually achieved by one of their tree’s seeds producing a sapling). If their tree bodies are killed, then they are permanently extinguished, without even an afterlife to go to. Power in the city-states is three-fold: the Grove Cults who tend to the Dryads’ verdant forms (usually comprising mainly female dryads), the clan-mothers (sufficiently elderly females who are not bound to trees), and the Armoury (an assembly of every man capable of fighting).
The younger group, known as the Redwood Botanists, are actually part of a much larger ethnic group stretching across the continent. Their more famous cousins, the Highland Botanists, make up the bulk of the non-Winged Person population in the Empire of the Qumor. But it is here, not in the Qutosbegek Mountains, that the Botanists have truly prospered. Like the Dryads, they bond with specific plants from a very young age, but in this instance their Gift is control over those plants, not a full merging with them. Every organism without a mental class of 5 or above has a Form unique to its species, and the Botanists tap into those Forms, doing everything from causing plants to grow more quickly (using sufficient magic of course) to manipulating dead matter (their bentwood boxes are among the wonders of the north, the wood bent perfectly to fit into the seams). They worship the spirits of plants as gods, assigning them specific powers based on the properties of the organism. The Redwood Botanists have four moieties, going by different names across the language areas but usually called after one land animal, one sea animal, and two flying animals; one is not allowed to marry outside of one’s opposite moiety, although as these are relatively universal and inter-band marriages are highly encouraged this doesn’t do much to limit one’s prospective partners. They also have three semi-hereditary castes (worker/farmer, hunter/warrior, and bard/priest), given their own representation at the polis assemblies (with four members, each representing a specific moiety, acting as leaders for the section). There is a vested interest in preserving the forest, not least because the most productive plants can be grown in great quantities but require relatively undisturbed forest cover to do so. This has not stopped them, however, from expanding out into the hinterlands beyond the sea to carve small empires for themselves…
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