THE PRICKLESPINE SHRUB

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

The Pricklespine plant is a dark-coloured shrub that can grow to incredible sizes, often towering over the landscape. Its deep black colouration and wicked thorns make it easily distinguishable, and its preference for growing in sparse and arid locations make it stand out against the landscape. Many travellers hence use large outgrowths of Pricklespine as orienteering landmarks. The sheer size and wickedness of its thorns and its ominous black colour give it a very forbidding presence, something to be avoided and respected. Pricklespine can be found growing in smallish groves around central Southern Sarvonia, especially in the Bone Valley between the Fores.

Appearance. A young Pricklespine sapling looks much like any common bramble: it has thick fibrous leaves and its branches, which radiate out from a short central trunk, are beginning to spiral and creep across the ground. As the plant develops, its branches thicken and strengthen, rising up from the dirt and arcing above the primary trunk; the leaves, once they’ve reached a certain size, stop growing and simply fringe the branches. Each leaf is laced with a trim of razor-sharp spines that helps the Pricklespine collect water from the ambience. As it ages the branches begin to harden, the bark soon gaining a rugged and ridged character much like that of an old oak, and its colour deepens to a true charcoal black. The wicked thorns of the Pricklespine, however, are its most defining characteristic. They continue to grow into maturity, often reaching over a ped and a for in length. Each thorn is strongly rooted to the branch and is incredibly solid, although it takes a considerable amount of time for any individual Pricklespine bush to reach such grandeur. The spiraling nature of the Pricklespine’s branches mean that these thorns soon form a barrier that is both strong and impassable, hazardous to any creature larger than, perhaps, a runnerhog.

The leaves of the Pricklespine, which it keeps into maturity, form a particularly vicious hazard for anyone attempting to venture into a grove. However, whilst the flensing spines of its leaves might easily shred any small critter that passes through them, the leaves themselves only grow in any density along the upper parts of the branches; any deeper than a ped beneath the canopy and the leaves die out, for they tend to no longer fulfil their purpose of attracting water.

The roots of the Pricklespine are strong, and run incredibly deep so as to find hidden reservoirs of water. Where water is abundant, the shrub often grows taller, with less overall width, and its branches huddle more densely. Its dark colouration will also never reach such intense blacks, often being streaked with grey or white wherever water is too readily available. However, an overabundance of water will soon cause rot within the plant, leading to a softening of the spines, which once broken off will never regrow. A generally unhealthy Pricklespine will be stunted and dishevelled, its spines snapped by cumbersome animals and its roots saturated and spongey, and it will be overly grey and pale. Various little critters make the sweeping curves of the Pricklespines their home. Wild pigs like to roost in burrows beneath the touch of the leaves, where they are safe from strong winds and larger predators. Certain birds also nest between the spines. Very little other foliage can grow under the shade of its dense branches.
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Territory. The Pricklespine bush prefers dry and arid regions that are typically devoid of other fauna. In particular, the largest copses of Pricklespine can be found in the Valley of the Fores, a very dry region of southern Sarvonia. The Bone Valley and its numerous stonefields are home to the oldest pricklespine in
Sarvonia, which have attained almost legendary heights. Local settlements regard them with both fear and awe. Smaller patches and solitary shrubs can be found dotted in the hinterland slopes of mountains across Sarvonia. In general, the Pricklespine can endure a range of temperatures, and is considered a fairly tenacious plant. Return to the top

Usages. The shrub itself has limited usages, given its fairly hostile impression. Its branches are sturdy and its bark is resilient, making it difficult to damage with fire or anything lighter than a woodsman’s bearded axe. Its lumber is brittle when dry however, and has little flex, although its tempered strength means any branch of substantial size will be unlikely to crack. Therefore, it is not unheard of in the lore for intrepid folk leaders to order makeshift barricades to be made from its branches, to make use of its natural defences. Historic Helcrani settlers were sometimes known to construct crude palisades of Pricklespine around their settlements. There have been tales of warlords who’ve sown Pricklespine seeds in arcing rings around their lands to protect themselves from marauders; likewise, the Thrumgolz legends mention the intentional cultivation of Pricklespine at the various entrances to their caverns, a practice reconciled in corresponding footnotes amongst the tomes of the Theregrim archives of the High Fores.
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Reproduction. The Pricklespine relies on two methods of reproduction: a small bundle of seeds grows beneath the undercarriage of specifically larger leaves. In its junior stages, the Pricklespine relies on its horizontal growth to spread as many seeds as it can from these bundles, which break off periodically and disperse close around it. As the Pricklespine matures and its branches begin to raise off the ground, space develops for younger shrubs to grow. When the bush reaches maturity, it relies on birds and small animals to consume its seeds and excrete them in distant locations. Often it is only local animals that consume its seeds, resulting in a narrow distribution, but a variety of birds also help greatly in spreading it.
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Myth/Lore. Some colourful tales exist in the chronicles of the various people who had once dwelled near the Pricklespine. A bookkeeper in Milkengrad provides us with this particular excerpt, from the book "The Mists Before Santharia", a Chronicle of Ancient Peoples, which follows an old Helcrani leader called Kyro, who had helped found a now long-forgotten town in the deepest parts of the Bone Valley:

Whilst much of the chronicling we have pertaining to the determinate historical areas of the founding of the Helcrani, both as a cultural entity and through paternal lineage, is fraught with obscuring clouds and silly elvish clutter, we have at least a wealth of fascinating anecdotes passed down via the Kyranian oral tradition; many of which can now be found in the prolix ledgers beneath Milkengrad and hallowed Ximax. Thus, if one so esteemed were to seek an authority on the events preceding the Curse, or the Age of Blood, one might be hard-pressed to accept any such estimate fables - however, if by chance, one so esteemed sought an account of ancient Kyranian mating rituals, a surprisingly detailed entry might just be found! Now, let me regale you with saga I found quite enjoyable, that of Oecetor Kyro:

A man of brutish qualities he was; rough-set, banded like a blackhog and aggressively fond of womenfolk. The Oecetor was one of the many Kyranians-turned-Helcrani who - and here the Mists cloud over, where caution is most prudent - were vanquished by those villainous elves of the Goltherrhim. As is known, the browbeaten Helcrani settled variously across the breadth of Fores; the early Fratrae each finding a place to call home. However, we would be remiss to assume that ancient Helcrani society had been so unified. Wayward families, splintered by the harshness of the marauders, oft never made it to those settled refuges. One such family was that of Oecetor Kyro. At his helm were the tatters of some four other families: young sons, daughters and wives, perhaps thirty souls in total. Kyro was not a man to be quelled by the elements, where the prudent Fratrae had sought water, resource and shelter and the open hands of the Theregrim, headstrong Kyro saw only the shimmering expanse of the Bone Valley. "Let these great parched walls shield us, my children" he once spoke. In true Helcrani fashion, the Oecetor ordered the fruit of the pricklespine to be harvested and scattered in a great ring around the foot of a great hill - named thereafter as Kyro's Perch (in, again, true Helcrani fashion!). It was perhaps the divine whim of some deity that the wicked bushes had reached perhaps the height of a small koyot canine by the time of Kyro's death, as slow growing as the great black fiends are. And so, as history goes, the small tribe at Kyro's refuge held on for a few years before the Plague struck, essentially reducing his legacy to a crown of black thorns around a nameless, lost hill in the empty expanse between the great legacy of the Helcrani people.

Let us now turn to an analyses of the documents rescued from the Accam Accord...

A second popular mention of the Pricklespine bush can be a found in a contemporary overview of the Battle of the Fores (variously entitled "The Incident" by the Nerterean Fratrae) by the Helcrani levy Ecomentar Smallshanks, a nervous man with a taste for bombastic writing:

...and with great patience the dark ones waited beneath the shadow of their black shrub, hidden from the pure brightness of the sun by their foul magics. Yet valour surged between the ranks of Helcrah, a wholesome spirit, unmatched by any other, and the glittering ranks of Milkengrad, side and shoulder locked with the stoic Nertereans, plunged deep into the black mouth of the Alvang...

Their treachery, of course, knew no bounds. The braves of Milkengrad were entrapped, the apostates of Alvang on their right and a hellish sweep of Pricklespine to their backs...

...it was as if the brightest star had been cruelly and most abruptly snuffed out; his lifeblood spilled across the sand, vicious Qeuprur's barb emerging beneath his heart. And so Kaludin of Milkengrad passed upon the sands of battle. Yet his life was not in vain, for his son Noro survived him...

The last of our entries of note pertaining to the Pricklespine is a short tale, scribbled down in a folklorist's journal. Supposedly, the wandering scholar named Orthor Brook met an orc in a tavern in Voldar - a meeting of great peculiarity, for sure - and noted down the encounter.

It was in Voldar that I met a spectacular fellow: an Ashz-oc orc by the name of Agram. A weary beast, with a great heavy hide, he seemed most out of sorts. I asked him, in Tharian, how he had come to Voldar of all places. His response was brief and devoid of unnecessary wind - a noble beast, for sure. What then caught my eye was what furnished the beast's harness: a sword of great length, as expected, but then a dagger too. It was black, and wickedly sharp; indeed, I soon saw that it held no particular edge and was closer to a spearhead of sorts - and it was made of wood! With incredulity I asked the beast, say, how came you into the possession of such an aberrant weapon? The beast grunted, and pivoted his shoulder away from me. Best not to anger the beasts, they always say. I made sure, however, to inspect the weapon from afar for a good few minutes. It was indeed a thorn, a great black thorn, fastened to an iron hilt! Most marvelous, most peculiar. Return to the top


 Date of last edit 24th Sleeping Dreameress 1676 a.S.

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