Aspen of spring light,
Oak of autumn blaze,
Willow of winter night,
Yew of summer days,
Hawk of spring flight,
Swallow of autumn laze,
Raven of winter fright;
Sparrow of summer haze.
Heart of spring dawn,
Flood of autumn rain,
Soul of winter thorn,
Blood of summer gain,
Love in spring born,
Faith in autumn, stain,
Love in winter, torn,
Hope of summer; slain.
Appendices for those who enjoy and appreciate joining me in Cyralost:
These raptors are birds of prey that average nineteen inches in length and (depending on their specific species) have a wing span of between forty two and fifty six inches. Hawks tend to weigh around two and a half pounds in weight and though the colouring varies slightly between species, adults tend to be dark brown of feather and their young have a grey-brown appearance. There have been sightings of black hawks, a rare breed that hunt in the area surrounding the Peaks of Ravensky in Calastria and there is a legend of a silver hawk but that all depends on who tells the story.
The hawk tends to live in wood edges but aren’t necessarily native to either open or wooded areas, though they do require some cover and migrate south in winter as they are not able to withstand the cold; they return to the north as spring dawns (for the mating season to begin).
Spring breeding can lead to the laying of eggs a mere six weeks later, the mother (who is sexually mature at just a year old) keeps the eggs warm for about a month and stays close to the nest for some time after to protect her young from thieves and killers of the natural world. They live for up to twenty years.
The young in the nest (usually two or three of them) are fed worms and bugs like beetles, frogs, young snakes and small rodents. Their diet will consist largely of rodents later and also include fish and larger mammals such as hares and squirrels. Practitioners of magic who have familiars of these sort, suffer their loss regularly when located near wooded areas and Hawk familiars are often employed for the simple reason of hunting other wizards’ familiars.
Hawks have been known to eat carrion and are one of the few birds of prey able to distinguish between the dead and the undead, able to omit the turned from their menu and avoid their taint.
The more scientifically minded alchemists that have dissected these birds (out of medical curiosity) have discovered that the hawk has a small pouch located halfway between their mouth and their stomach (called a ‘crop’) which regulates the steady flow of sustenance. Intelligent familiars and those with a more discerning eye can tell when a hawk last hunted from the bulge of its ‘crop’. A full ‘crop’ will mean that the hawk may not need to kill again for more than a day.
The arc-mage, Shyb Meglassi widely studied hawks anatomy when researching and evolving his work on the Akarna Curse, in an attempt to see if a ‘crop’ of sorts could be instilled in to the body’s corruption by the curse but shelved his findings and destroyed his experiments (poor tortured souls) after a decade of dead-ends. Why a ‘crop’ would be of use in conjunction with the Akarna curse remains a mystery as such a tell-tale sign would surely bring attention of the wrong kind and lead to execution.
Hawks hover like kites on a moderate wind and maintain a slow but steady flight with deep wing-beats, speeding up efficiently and effectively when darting in for the kill. The hawk’s consistency of movement is one of the attributes more commonly mimicked in magic usage. The reliability associated with the hawk is mirrored in magical artefacts by using hawk feathers for quills, fletching and such.
The hawk is one of the more popular forms used when employing the transmogrification spell and is often used as a spirit guide or linked hunter by Elven-kind as the hawk’s sight is incredible (even better than an Elf’s). It is estimated that the hawk can spot a small rodent from a mile up in the air.
The raven is an immense black bird that hails from the crow family (which should set the stage for its spiritual associations) and has a deep, almost guttural bark rather than a caw; a haunting sound that wake men from slumber and send other scavengers fleeing from the carrion of a battlefield.
The raven sports a heavy beak, curved slightly to enable deeper gouging, oily black feathers that mislead the eye with an iridescent sheen that strikes the light as if through a prism. They differ from their cousins, the crows through their sheer size (they are huge).
Raven-kind thrive in any climate, from the arctic tundra to the desert sands, they are completely unperturbed by weather and are happy to eat anything, anywhere, finding solace on the coast but tending to mass in great numbers in woodland. These birds can hunt (though scavenge is a more accurate description of their feeding procedures) as solitary creatures but thrive in large colonies, some involving hundreds of their brethren (as known to have been used in some particularly ghastly murders by Darquelle).
The raven will kill small mammals and birds but prefer to feed on insects, berries and other birds’ eggs as well as carrion (for which they are more widely known to diet on) due to being lazy and bully-like creatures.
Young ravens court from a juvenile age but this can be a lengthy process as bonding can take up two years before mates are paired and a large part of raven behaviour can be linked to mating; including aerial acrobatics and impressive displays of intelligence (as well as the ability to discover sustenance, finding food appears to be one of the more familiar behaviour patterns associated with raven mating rituals).
Ravens, once paired off with their partner, will nest for life, never mating with another bird. The pair will build a nest together in a large tree (usually in a high canopy) or on a cliff ledge, where they will reside for life unless their home is disturbed by larger predators than themselves (though they will defend the nest if young are present).
A typical raven nest will comprise of large sticks and twigs, lined with animal fur or straw and the female will lay between three and seven eggs (blue-green in colour with brown splotches) in this. Both the parents will take turns with incubation and feeding the chicks when hatched. The ravens work as a team to protect their precious babies and guard the nest with savage rapaciousness.
Ravens are intensely curious creatures (one of the very few flaws with using them as familiars as they can be distracted or snared this way) and are attracted to shiny objects, much in the same way as magpies, until they mature. The young take an interest in trinkets and curiosities and have been known to work at stealing any one specific item of interest to them for the best part of an hour (and return often to make another attempt at acquiring the object if it is particularly stubborn).
The raven is one of the smartest birds in Cyralost, able to form tools where necessary to collect food from puzzling places and they have an uncanny gift to copy sounds from their environment; even known to imitate parts of humanoid speech (especially guttural languages like Low Oarken).
Cyralost’s ravens have long been considered as ill omens which is curious as there are a great many tales in folklore, myths and legends that contain text on the wonderful deeds and heroic feats performed by this ebony wind runners (with the exception of the tale of ‘The brothers, Three’ regarding the trio of wizards whose treachery and traitorous acts against each other has lived on centuries after their deaths), it is possibly due to their colour, bark and diet of carrion.
Ravens are often associated with lies (possibly due to the aforementioned legend), liars are occasionally referred to as ‘raven hearted’ and the feathers of these birds are popular with practitioners of magic, who use them as fletching and decoration for evil spell projectiles.
The Nevermore tree is a dark and ghastly thing of nightmares, painful to the eye, hideous and sickening to behold. Its branches are like spider web and its leaves are obsidian, jet black with ash and silver stems.
The Nevermore Tree taints its surroundings, making a land of grotesque and scary looking landmarks, scarred, ashen and inhospitable; an insult to nature. The Nevermore Tree (not dissimilar in magical potency pertaining to its sister, the Evermore Tree) holds a wealth of dark and demonic sorcery, chaotic-evil in ‘nature’, making water stagnant and poisonous; breathes overwhelming sadness and depression in to the living.
It makes people as insane as the Nevermore Tree’s surroundings and animates the dead, who in-turn, go forth to spread plague and disease and create more undead. The term widely used in Cyralost for creating undead is turned (written in italics for literature’s sake to ensure that the difference of its appearance registers as something out of the ordinary, not quite right).
For example: The Zombie bit deep in to the soldier’s shoulder, rending the flesh. The soldier screamed in panic, in pain, in terror. Terror for he knew that he had been turned and would soon join the walking cadavers, as soon as his life left and his death began.
So, look out for the terms: turn, turning, turned in italics as it means something bad is about to hit the page.
There are artefacts, of course, cultivated from Nevermore Trees like wands etc and they are highly sought after and prized by necromancers and evil doers, regardless of their status. If their actions are malign in purpose, they will want a piece of the Nevermore Tree.
There is a dying Nevermore Tree on the island of Thaldani, a land that is still far from recovering from the ill effects and is vastly inhabited by the turned, though few will turn undead now if they die on Thaldani soil as the curse appears to be wearing out now that the tree has ‘died’.
Just like the Evermore Tree, the Nevermore Tree grows a seed in the ground which slowly makes its way up to the surface, parting the trunk at the base to be ‘born’.
Sadly, the Nevermore Tree is more productive than the Evermore Tree (which seems hypocritical due to the devastation it causes) and bares a seed once a century.
This is monitored by the various factions and alliances of light (religions dedicated to the gods of light such as Valen, the wizard academy, the knights etc) and champions are sent forth appropriately to claim and destroy the seeds as necessary. Champions are chosen by various means like tests, trials and rituals but these can be found in another appendix.
Chaotic/evil alignments also quest for the seeds so that they can turn the land against itself by planting them everywhere. There are currently two Nevermore Tree seeds unaccounted for (well, the account can be found of the failure to secure and destroy each seed, it is the mystery of their whereabouts that is most distressing).
I wonder what would happen if a crazy botanist were able to somehow create a new breed of ‘More’ tree by combining the seeds of an Evermore Tree and a Nevermore Tree…
The Evermore Tree
The Evermore Tree is an exceptionally rare, magical tree that emits a peaceful calm to
all its surroundings. The tree itself has the appearance of a weeping willow but its
leaves are crystalline and its bark shines silvery in the sunlight, giving off a vibrant
spectrum of colour as it reflects off the leaves; sprouting magical rainbows that give
life to spellborn Faeries.
The Evermore Tree affects its surroundings in a beautiful way, spreading love, joy
and the wonder of laughter without reason. The tree, naturally, brings visitors from
afar to bathe in its loving embrace, its radiance. Pilgrims (from followers of deities
pertaining to the light and magicians for educational reasons) come from all over
Cyralost to see the magnificent tree, therefore; bringing prosperity to the region
through commerce etc.
There are a few ‘God given gifts’ crafted from Evermore Tree branches (which must
be freely given by the tree itself, as it is in-fact, a sentient being) and leaves such as
magical wands and religious artefacts but those can be found in the appendices
pertaining to magic (most likely in the ever growing tome known as ‘The Kirillion’).
The Evermore Tree is a solitary being and, though its roots grow far and spread for
miles (spreading its love and favour) it is unlike other trees insofar as to say – it will
not grow in a stand, a group etc. There will never be an Evermore forest (sadly).
The tree grows but one seed every three hundred years (born in the earth and slowly
pushed up to the surface where it will ritually part the base of the trunk and be given
to the world, occasionally by an emissary for the gods such as a dancer).
Dark histories: Obviously, the tree is coveted, guarded closely and its seed…
the most sought after artefact known. Nations warred over the right to plant the seed. A war for peace (which is like making love to make virginity) whatever next? Evil doers have destroyed previous seeds and there are mad cults and dark disciples who lie in wait for the next seed to be born so they can steal it and ensure its doom.
The last Evermore Tree was located in fabled Elspar, which was named after Tark Elspar, King of Kings and the Emperor of the Elsparran Commonwealth. Elspar is, of course, located on the island of Tarkus, now known as the Isle of the Mad. See appendices for Tarkus, Isle of the Mad, Tark Elspar and Nevermore Tree.
The Yew tree is an evergreen tree that can grow up to sixty five feet in height. It is extremely long lived, lasting thousands of years. There is rarely a wood as old as the first Yew tree that grows there. It is possibly the oldest tree in history.
The Yew has scaly brown bark and its leaves are long and lanceolate in shape. The Yew’s seeds are enveloped in a berry red structure called an ‘aril’ and, with the exception of the ‘aril’, all other parts of the tree are toxic.
The tree is revered in some places (indeed in many faiths) but used largely to make bows, staves, wands and poisons. Yew is a popular combustible when smoking a cauldron for magical purposes.
The Marriage of Elf and Tree
Elven kind have known the gift (or curse) of being long-lived since they first walked on Cyralost. Their love of the woodland and forestry goes deeper than a simple admiration for nature; they need to be one with the land as they belong to Cyralost (as do the Oarken).
To aid survival, ensure their continued longevity and improve their magical abilities; they take a ‘Tree Spouse’. An Elf participates in a magical, spiritual wedding ceremony where they are married to a tree when they come of age. They are bound to that tree until either they or their tree dies.
The Oak tree is a type of deciduous tree, one that sheds its broad, lobed leaves during the autumn (Oak leaves are used by wizards to produce potions of strength). Forests (such as the Klavin Forest in Tenera) are primarily composed of deciduous trees though it is not uncommon to see a lone Oak tree.
It is a member of the Beech family and lives for centuries (200 -1000 years) hence it is often ‘married’ to an Elf due to the longevity and ‘Tree Spouse’ requirements.
They can grow to as much as a hundred feet tall with a circumference of up to thirty feet. Between the age of twenty and fifty years old, the Oak will start to produce acorns (thousands will be produced by the time it is seventy years old).
Acorns are produced once a year and production increases each year. In a good year, the Oak tree will have up to several thousand flowers which become tiny scaled acorns (called nubbins in this infant state). Acorns mature by late summer but only one in ten thousand will become a tree.
The wood of the Oak tree is known to be used in building houses, making furniture, weapon handles like cudgels and wizard’s staves (though magicians usually prefer the wood of a Yew tree or Rowan tree for these). The wood of a ‘married’ Oak is highly prized.
Thicket: A tangle of shrubs or small trees.
Grove: Small group of trees or a small orchard.
Copse: Small wood.
Coppice: Are of undergrowth and small trees grown for periodic cutting.
Clearing: A patch/area of ground within a wood/forest that is ‘tree free’ (perhaps for a camp site).
Deciduous: Sheds leaves periodically.
Evergreen: Doesn’t shed.