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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
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...
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.