slim tree with a slender trunk and elongated silvery leaves, the Larkentir has
only recently been discovered to be a type of growth more closely related to the
family of fungi. However, centuries of habituation demand that we still refer to
it as the tree it near-perfectly mimics. The entire tree, trunk, roots, and all,
trembles and vibrates in response to any movement of the
air, no matter how subtle. A
human voice at normal volume is enough to
cause a single tree to stir, while a shout can make a whole copse of Larkentir
shudder violently. A volcanic eruption, earthquake, or other natural disaster
has been known to fell swathes of these incredibly sensitive and
hauntingly-shaped trees from the noise alone. Traditionally, people steer clear
of Larkentir and do not use even the fallen wood; the sap is a deep crimson red
and it is terrifying to see it ooze slowly from an
ax blow or a torn-off limb. Larkentir are found mainly but not exclusively
within the confines of the Shivering
Woods in Southern Sarvonia.
Appearance. The Larkentir tree is possibly one of the most interesting, and most unsettling inhabitants of the Caelerethian Herbarium. It is tall in height, standing on average about ten to fifteen peds at full maturity. The slick dark grey 'bark' on the branches and trunk appears almost black during cloudy days. Branches do not emerge from the trunk until at least five peds up. At this point, small, slender branches begin to extend outwards sporadically, clustering more tightly and becoming longer as they move up the tree. The branches are usually no longer than a ped to two peds in length, and very wiry but brittle. Upwards on the tree, more branches come out, becoming more and more frequent the higher you go. Eventually, when you reach the top, the branches, coupled with the large, long silver leaves, become so thick, it is almost impossible to see the sky. Throughout the Shivering Woods, these branches break at random, for such simple reasons as a passerby's footfall, an animal's passage below, or even an accidental sneeze.
The leaves sprouting from these branches grow almost year-round. They require little light in order to survive, which is fortunate, as the forest floor is fairly dark due to the coverage above. The ones that sprout from the uppermost branches only emerge when the two brightest summer months of the year have passed; meanwhile, a thick layer of branches and dead leaves still blot out the light that could hurt the ones on the lower branches. The leaves, when dead, turn a duller grey and fold in at the sides, eventually forming a sheet of grey that provides a roof to the forest. During the months of fall, winter, and spring when the Larkentir are 'in bloom', these leaves can reach up to three handspans in length. The end, or apex of the leaf is sharp enough to puncture human skin, while on the other hand the sides of the leaf are softer than the feather of the aelirel bird. The veins and midrib cause a small indentation in the leaf, slightly less than a quarter of a nailsbreadth wide. This vein always has a light silver liquid flowing inside it, believed to be part of the reproductive process.
A blood-red sap flows throughout the trunk of the tree. Though the tree itself is already a slim fore in diameter, the bark and wood only extend about a palmspan into the trunk, and the centre of the trunk is filled with the sap. The sap burns and stings the skin badly, creating yet another reason why the plant is avoided. The sap is very slow-moving but not thick, and runs down the trunk of the tree at an almost unobservable pace once secreted through the trunk and bark. If the tree is broken, it oozes slowly from the break. While even being immersed in the sap would not endanger life (though it would be painful), anyone in the vicinity of a wounded Larkentir should avoid having the sap touch their clothing. While it will not burn through as acid might, it will stain garments a crimson-red colour that could convince any guard or magistrate that one was a mass murderer!
The root system of the Larkentir tree is, well, almost not a root system. The trunk of the tree actually extends about a fore into the ground. At this point, the trunk stops at a rounded stubby end, and lacy, thin root fibers come out from the end. This is very similar to the roots on a mushroom, and is only one of many things that have led Compendium researchers to believe that this “tree” might actually be a fungus.
Territory. The Larkentir Tree is located almost exclusively in the Shivering Woods in Southern Sarvonia. The impression that the trees are shivering that many people get when passing through the forest comes from the fact that the trees shake slightly back and forth in a breeze, and shiver even when someone talks quietly. Many of the occasional groups that travel through the Shivering Woods end up talking in whispers only by the time they reach the opposite border which they seek so as not to disturb the unsettling trees.
The Larkentir Trees themselves usually grow close together. The trees have been known to fall and rest on top of each other, sometimes forming what appear to be already-built huts for passing travelers. However, care must be taken that the deadfall is neither too young, with fresh sap still dripping from the easily-shattered branches, nor too old, as the 'flesh' of the tree seems to degrade far more swiftly than ordinary wood rots. The maximum length of time that a Larkentir trunk has been observed to last seems to be about four months - ridiculously speedy, and another clue to researchers that the 'tree' may actually be quasi-fungal in nature.
Usages. The Larkentir Tree is very frightening to most humans, elves, and all other sentient beings. Due to the myths, the tree's disturbing appearance, and its rapid degeneration, people tend to avoid using it, even though the leaves and wood might have some potential. Temporary shelters that disintegrate after use, or stream-fording bridges that rot so quickly an enemy cannot cross behind you, have all been suggested by contemporary scholars, but popular opinion is still against them.
The only record of anyone truly using any part of the tree is found in the histories of the Tsváen’mol’khár dark elves. The Larkentir was once a major part of the Tsváen’mol’khár culture. This particular tribe of Dark Elves, now long gone from the Disk, spoke almost completely in whispers or with hand signals unless outside the woods themselves, so as not to destroy the trees. They avoided the use of any magic that might produce loud sounds, and reared their infants in special clearings free of the Larkentir until the babes were old enough to control their own volume.
These elves would on occasion weave the leaves through the roof of any building they built, and sometimes use the naturally-constructed huts that are caused when the trees fall on each other as shelter. They were known on rare occasions to actually collect, concentrate, and use the red sap as a weapon, but this was usually only in times of war.
Reproduction. The Larkentir Tree can fertilize itself, or Larkentirs can fertilize other Larkentirs. Fertilization occurs when the red sap comes into contact with the silver liquid within the leaves. When this happens, a reaction occurs and the sap transforms into small, silver balls. These balls are very similar in colour to the leaves that they come from: a very bright, shiny silver. The biggest change is that they do not have the skin burning property of the sap. The balls act as seeds for the new tree, and quickly fall to the ground. When wind or other natural occurrences cause the ball to be buried in dirt, (no more than two or three nailsbreadths is needed) the seed gains the potential to actually grow. This usually takes place in one out of every two balls. Once the trees do begin growing, they sprout up very fast, sometimes growing up to two peds in a year.
Myth/Lore. The myth of the creation of the Larkentir Tree is amazing, beautiful, and somewhat frightening:
The Attempt of the Silver Hands. Long ago, before the towers of Ximax were formed, mages of the Silver Hand came to a forest, planning to attempt immortality. It is said, that when the mages of the Silver Hand’s plans were sabotaged by the Dark Elves, the elves took the blood of the mages and desecrated the woods with it. But the blood became entwined with the Larkentir Tree, and is the main part of the burning, red sap that exists in them today. The Silver hand is also the reason for the weakness of the trees, because before the Silver Hand, the trees were strong and much less likely to break. But as the powerful spell they used to attempt immortality broke upon the forest, it permanently weakened the trees and has left them in this fragile state. The Larkentir is now the center of much mystery and adds greatly to the aura of the unknown surrounding the Shivering Woods.
The last thing to add is
that the Larkentir is said, in Santharian
mythology, to be used in the building of Arwoods. Arwoods are the Groves of
Arvins that are tended by druids, and are
possibly the only other place on Caelereth
that contain Larkentir Trees. The druids have managed to plant this tree in
Arwoods throughout Caelereth, and so far
this only record of the tree being manually planted and grown. Though they still
stay inside the plants' boundaries and only plant it in areas where the
sun is limited.
Regardless of their true nature and history, the Larkentir Trees have puzzled the minds of the greatest of scholars and hid the Shivering Woods from the world for millennia, and will continue to do so forever.