Grove of carnivorous plants
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Sub zones: Thornlodge
Inhabitants: dryads, bramble dryads, podmaws, sack vines, doormat plants, poisonous creepers, giant pitchers, earth mouths, titan chameleons, tonorions, steam scorpions
There is one main rule that you must follow in this place if you wish to live: don't run! This lush maze is filled with natural traps set by a wide variety of carnivorous plants. A careless misstep is all it takes to trigger them and be promptly eaten. The air is extremely hot and damp, to the point that you cannot even start a fire here. The heat and moisture turn this maze into a paradise for insects, and their presence makes this zone even more uncomfortable and dangerous. Adventurers who travel here have disturbing feeling of being watched at all times, and in a sense they are. Watch flowers grow in abundance here, and these peculiar sunflower-like plants always turn themselves toward the nearest potential prey. Even if these flowers are harmless in and of themselves, it's rather unsettling when they turn toward YOU! Some legends say that they are the eyes of the dryads, but this is incorrect.
The whole zone forms an intricate labyrinth that seems to be alive and carnivorous itself. Great tentacles sweep the many paths randomly, and cavernous maws yawn open in the ground, suddenly and without warning. If you turn back, you'll often see that the surroundings have changed, such as a natural wall appearing behind you that wasn't there a few seconds ago. The dryads of the grove often use their magic and control over vegetation to play such tricks and "guide" their prey toward them. The core of the Grove is even more dangerous, and some gigantic specimens of carnivorous plants are said to grow here.
All in all, it's strongly advised to avoid this zone as there is no particular treasure to be found here, aside from any undigestible items left by previous unlucky adventurers, that is.
Situated in the transitory zone to the east of the Grove of Carnivorous Plants between Tolmeshal and Chidokai forest is Thornlodge, a towering two-pronged, deep red-colored tree covered in poisonous spines that are up to a few feet long. Radiating from its base, roots arch out of the ground in tangled briers, sporting smaller spines of several inches. The whole structure began humbly as a poisonous plant which had grown to a considerably large size and choked out the other plants growing in the immediate area for more room and thus continued to grow to its current size. The poison from its spines is very potent, and the dose from a prick of one of the larger thorns can make a giant sick for more than a day.
Two races have taken up residence here; a tribe of lemurians, which with their dexterity are well suited to traversing the spiny surface, and Ariformids, which use the thorny roots as protection for the openings of their hive and use them as paths while gathering food and such. Relations between the two are very good; the tiny bug-folk are more than happy to put partly eaten, discarded fruits to good use and they can relay information to the lemurians through their own network. For the most part the lemurians stick to the tree and the ariformids stay around and below the ground, though they have a few passages through the tree to reach the ears of lemurians swiftly, or to hunt small insects that reside in the upper tree.
There are no openings inside that humans could fit into, though the lemurians have set up a unique way of making it habitable. They build walkways and living spaces using the longer thorns jutting out as sturdy anchoring points for woven fibers. Houses are fairly thin, about six to ten feet, allowing plenty of room for climbing around the outside. The inner wall is the surface of the Thornlodge, while an outer wall consists of a plate of bark, or several, tied off and secured in place. The left or right side is left open with a drape serving for privacy. Near the base of the Thornlodge, these structures are designed more for the convenience of less dextrous beings such as humans.
What makes this place most notable is that the lemurians are quite hospitable to travelers and have little problem with most people staying about a day to rest and recuperate before heading back on their way. A generous bunch, they'll offer delicious fruits, a healing specialist, etc. if needed. Much of the time, they would even allow a small naga or such to stay, though they will expect them to accept a vegetarian diet while there. A variety of tinies can be found either visiting the ariformid hive as travelers, representatives of their nearby society, or as a part of the hive itself. The residents of Thornlodge don't tolerate predation in their midst at all, and especially not of their tiny neighbors. If a neko were to visit the Thornlodge and eat a neera, a witness would be all that's needed for the normally gentle lemurians to turn hostile and drive the offender away. They are very capable of defending themselves, resorting to blow-dart weapons that deliver the tree's poison. You'd be lucky if they used the antidote on you afterwards, and likely be far away from the Thornlodge when you regain consciousness.
Most predators generally avoid trying to raid Thornlodge; a giant would have to deal with briers underfoot and trying to catch the nimble lemurians while trying not to prick themselves on its many spines. The defenses of their home may be largely effective, but there are still ways predators can get to them. Fairies in particular can easily bypass the defenses of the Thornlodge, although they are fairly uncommon in the grove. Of course, a fairy would have to still be wary of the army of half-insect tinies nearby which could swarm them at a reduced size should they attempt to infiltrate. An occasion well-remembered is when a surprised shrunken lemurian was protected fiercely by minuscule ariformids that rushed to defend their ally.
- Credit to Fish for the Thornlodge idea.