Situated just east of
Milkengrad in the
Santharian province of Vardýnn, the Grove of
Embers, or Náfrer'linlón (lit. "Ember Grove") as it is called by the
Milken Brownies, is a lush,
plant-filled area that is significant to the aforementioned group of
Brownies. Teeming with life, it is also
filled with the spirits of all of the
Milken who think fondly of
their connection to the Helcrani men.
The Grove is a tribute commemorating the fateful meeting between the
Helcrani and the
Milken annual Burning
Festival is held here at sunset on the 10th Day of Burning Heavens, taking
advantage of the glowing stones located in the center of the Grove, and at its
Description. One of the most unique locations in the province of Vardýnn, the Grove of Embers is set apart from its surroundings - literally! As one approaches the Grove from Milkengrad, he or she will pass through an assortment of trees (not dense enough to be considered a forest) and other plant life. After some distance, the trees disappear and open up into field covered in Centoraurian grass. The field is irregular in shape, having no concrete borders, and surrounds the Grove. One only needs to glance ahead to see the Grove waiting in the distance, inviting curious travelers to enter and wonder at its beauty.
|Image description. The beautifully lush, tranquil scenery of the Grove of Embers near Milkengrad. Notice also the glowing stones that are part of the forest, dating back many centuries, probably of ancient elven origin. Picture drawn by Morjer.|
As one moves closer to the Grove, its features become much more defined. Bold
and elegant trees are closely packed and covered in vibrant, green leaves;
their sturdy, brown trunks are rooted well into the ground. They range from
mighty oaks to timid willows, each casting intricate shadows upon the grass
just outside of Náfrér'linlón as the Injèrá makes its journey across the sky.
At the edge of the Grove, in the north, south, east, and west, paths made of
individual flat stepping stones open up leading to the center. Each path is
flanked by two stone pillars, approximately two peds and two fores in height,
and two fores across at
their base. The stones generally taper inwardly, growing slightly narrower
toward the top. Intricate curved lines are carved into each pillar, forming
various swirl patterns. Each stone is unique in shape and pattern.
Following the well-worn paths, one passes deeper into the forest. Alongside the paths are various plants and trees, filling the air with rich, earthy scents. The floor the grove is covered in short grass and undergrowth. Vibrantly coloured flowers, lush shrubbery, sturdy trees, and oddly shaped fungi provide appealing visual imagery. Small creatures dart across the forest floor, and birds croon their cheerful songs. Sunlight drifts through the canopy, painting the ground with splotches of gold. Natural springs well up and pool in various places throughout the Grove, creating small streams that flow inward toward the center of the forest.
Despite all of this beautiful scenery surrounding it, the center of the Grove is where the main attraction lies. The trees and foliage part and open up into a small clearing. There is a pool of clear, icy water in the center of the clearing, fed by the vast majority of the streams that flow from the natural springs. Various water plants float along its surface; fish and amphibious creatures move about freely in its waters. Surrounding the pool are thirteen stone pillars, similar in shape to those at the entrances to the Grove. The Milken and the elven Helcrani call these the Náfrér'galnós (lit. "Ember Stones"). As the sun sets each day, the patterns carved into these stones and the stones lying at the entrances begin to glow a vibrant orange colour. Hundreds of tiny little emberglow flies flit about, creating a truly magical scene. The light of the stones linger well after dusk, eventually fading slowly well into the night.
Location. The Grove of Embers is located in Southern Sarvonia, more specifically in the Santharian province of Vardýnn on the island of Efirhal. It lies approximately two strals east of the city of Milkengrad, west of the Thaelon Forest, and north of the Aurora Plains.
consider the Grove of Embers to be a special place, though the
have much more regard for it. In fact, the annual Burning Festival held by the
takes place there every 10th Day of Burning Heavens. Some of the
of course, also participate in this festival, though their turnout isn't that
is taken to visit the Grove at some point in their childhood, and many return
periodically to visit the area. Skilled members of the Gardeners
Milken Brownie Guild are
tasked with the upkeep of the forest's varied plant life. They possess knowledge
of every type of plant that makes its home in Náfrér'linlón. They are assisted
by some members of the Rat Catchers Guild, which defends them from some of the
more curious creatures that live inside of the grove. The Rat Catchers make it
their mission to learn how to handle these creatures in order to make their job
Climate. Much like the entirety of the island of Efirhal, the Grove of Embers enjoys a relatively temperate climate due to its proximity to a warm stream from the Dark Sea call the Mermaid’s Trail. The air is generally moist, and could be considered humid. Luckily, though, frequent cool winds blow in from the north. The spring and summer seasons produce warm temperatures, with the fall bringing about a significant cooling, transitioning into cold winters. However, an odd phenomenon regarding the climate of Náfrér'linlón is that it does not seem to affect the flora within the Grove at all, and nor do the waters ever freeze over. Though, the cold can still be felt, and the waters do become rather cold.
Flora. Because of its region’s temperate climate, the Grove of Embers supports a myriad of healthy vegetation. It is populated by many different kinds of trees which vary in type. However, most of these trees are deciduous. Many different kinds of flowering plants, herbs, and fungi also make themselves at home in the grove. This is most likely due to the influence of the vast array of cultivated plants in Milkengrad, and maintained and expanded by the Gardeners Milken Guild. However, there is something quite odd about these plants. Flowers and herbs never seem to perish during the cold season, and the trees do not shift in cycle. That is to say, the Grove behaves as if it somehow remains locked in spring. Should snow ever fall in the grove, the plants will live on, and behave as if it is not there. In fact, the falling snow behaves as a water source for the thirsty flora. Experts are baffled by these strange, inexplicable events.
Despite having a diverse menagerie of plant life, there are those that are more common than others. For example, oak, red birch, and willow trees dominate those plants that are arboreal in nature. However, one should not be surprised to find cedars and pines populating the area as well. In addition to their barren cousins, there are also several types of fruit-bearing trees. Some examples are the bell fruit tree and the meldarapple tree. Hungry travelers are welcome to pluck a few pieces of fruit from these trees in the spirit of the friendship that the Grove was created upon.
Alongside the towering trees is a numerous myriad of smaller plant life. This includes flowering plants, such as the dalferia plant and the injèrá'yránía. The jeshanna lily can also be found languishing along the perimeter of the Grove's streams and its small pond. The Grove is also home to some common and uncommon herbs and shrubbery, such as Dreamer's breath, the undertoe herb, the rosemint bush, and the doch nut bush. Various fungi such as the sulcho mushroom can be found tucked away beneath the shade of a tree. It is also worth mentioning that the floor of the Grove is covered in Centoraurian grass, much like the rest of Efirhal.
Fauna. With a group of beasts to rival its numerous plants, the Grove of Embers becomes a thriving ecosystem teeming with diverse life. The trees of Náfrér'linlón provide an excellent home for various types of creatures, such as birds, rodents, and insects. One such example is the caladrius bird. It is found quite commonly throughout the different parts of the grove, making its home in the many different trees. The caladrius is responsible for the majority of the singing that is commonly heard as one ambles through the Grove. During the Burning Festival, they are often known to provide beautiful "mood music", as if intuitively sensing the importance of the event. Several other types of tree-dwellers can also be found in Náfrér'linlón; these include the wynd racer, the wood owl, and the infamous kuatu. The kuatu are almost seen as an infestation. Their evening chattering is quite irritating to the Milken, especially when it occurs during their festival.
Other life abounds on the floor of the grove, coexisting harmoniously with the tree-dwelling denizens of Náfrér'linlón. Among these is a small population of raoshir (lit. "grey fox") and arshir (lit. "red fox"). They make their homes in various burrows throughout the area. They enjoy hunting the field mice and the tarepi that also make themselves at home in the Grove. The starback deer can also be found in the Grove of Embers, as well as the odd relatively harmless snake. There are rumours of wild pig sightings in the surrounding area, and travelers are cautioned to be wary.
In terms of smaller creatures, the Grove most certainly does not disappoint. A tasty source of food for the Milken, and also for their Lloaihrr cousins, the blackbeetle can be commonly found throughout the grove. Individuals from the Slinger Milken Guild often make trips to the forest to hunt for these succulent insects, taking members from other guilds such as the Metalworkers for assistance. Also found in the grove are the common myrmex, small amounts of the fire myrmex, the whistling beetle, the flitter-twitch butterfly, the red diamond butterfly, and the white spiral butterfly. One fascinating specimen, the emberglow fly, is found almost exclusively on Efirhal, concentrated mostly within Náfrér'linlón. It is theorized that the orange glow produced by the thorax of these insects is how the Grove of Embers received its name.
Lastly, we have those creatures which make their home within the waters inside of the Grove. Found living in the streams of Náfrér'linlón are several different types of water creatures. Among these are a few different types of fish, such as the dominoore fish, and the yellowtail fish. The green frog and the hollup frog can usually be spotted in or around the water. On rare occasions, one might even see the elusive illoryn waterbird.
Myth/Lore. Origin of the Name. Some scholars believe that the Grove received its name because of the glowing stones erected within it, and because of the emberglow flies that flit about within its confines. Others believe that the name "Grove of Embers" was most likely chosen in part because of its connotations surrounding where it is located: the island of Efirhal, which literally means "Firehill". Further granting credence to this theory, the name of the tribe that lives on this island, the Helcrani, means "firedamned". The Helcrani received this name due to the belief that they were cursed by Tacunija, heir to the Goltherrhim regency; he was assassinated by Helcrani (then Kyranian) rogues, and cursed them with his dying breaths. The volcano Hèckra then exploded three times, as if sealing the curse into reality. As embers are left after a fire fades, it is speculated that some believe that the Grove is a blessing to both the Milken and the Helcrani, freeing them and those around them from this supposed "curse".
The Glowing Stones. Perhaps the most mysterious aspects of Náfrér'linlón are the glowing stones located at its center and at its entrances. The exact origin of these stones is shrouded in murky clouds of hearsay and lost within the folds of time. However, some scholars believe that, based upon their elegant craftsmanship, the stones are elven in origin. This theory possesses some credence because of the large part the elven League played in orchestrating the events that led to the Grove's creation. The stones are also quite obviously magical in origin, with magic of this nature usually being most closely associated with elves. Ximaxian scholars have speculated that the stones may operate by absorbing the light of the sun, and using its energy to light up the night. Piling onto this theory, others have claimed that the stones might even be some form of ancient sundial.
Significance to the Milken. Despite these tales of the Grove providing blessings, its true significance lies in what it means to the Milken Brownies. The Milken began as the Hawkfeather Brownie Band, a group of Brownies stowing away on a boat from Akdor. They were discovered and, by chance, brought before the League. The Council of the League was a secret elven society, led by its inspirator Artemidoreus, attempting to find a way to bring about the harmonious rule of the world. The Brownies were chosen to assist in an experiment, which required them to cultivate and care for the four Artapherana, or the Trees of the Elements. Each one of the trees represented one of the four elements, Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water; these elements are presumed to be a metaphor for the four main races of Sarvonia (the humans, dwarves, orcs, and elves). The few Milken who could use Life Magic bent the natural light that trees produced to hide them from sight.
This experiment was to attempt to determine if humans could become the catalyst to bring about the co-operation of the races. After a brief attempt to use the Erpheronians for this experiment, the League switched its focus to the Helcrani, who were then seeking solace from the disaster involving the volcano Hèckra. Then, because of a plague, the Helcrani sought refuge in Centorauria. As they arrived at the Northern coast, the Milken released their magic, allowing the light of the Artapherana to shine forth. The Helcrani, seeing the light, made their way to the Milken (lit. "the small ones"), and gave them their name. They later founded the city of Milkengrad (lit. "City of the Small Ones"). The Helcrani and the Milken have coexisted together ever since. It is said that the Milken used their Life Magic, and constructed the Grove with the help of the Helcrani elves and their own magic. It would forever mark the day that the Milken finally found a place to call home, and an extended family with which to share it.
The Burning Festival. Every year, on the 10th day of Burning Heavens, the Milken hold a festival to commemorate that fateful day all those years ago when they met the Helcrani. Every Milken who is able gathers at the center of the Grove close to sunset, each carrying something that they hold close to their heart. They form a circle around the pool of water, and additional circles around that until each and every Brownie in attendance is in line. The Helcrani are invited (and encouraged) to participate in the ceremony, and many of them do attend.
One of the Milken Elders, usually an informal "priest/priestess" of the elven High Goddess, Avá the Beautiful, steps forward and speaks about the previous year; the first segment of the speech centers around rejoicing over the triumphs of the Milken, and lamenting upon their shortcomings. His or her voice is almost always amplified by someone through the use of wind magic, so that all may hear. He or she will then speak of the initial meeting between the Milken and the Helcrani honouring the age-old love and friendship that exists between these two very different peoples. When the speaker is finished, there is a hushed silence, extending until the stones surrounding the pool of water begin to glow.
As if unified and connected by ethereal threads, the Milken will begin to sing a hymn composed in Styrásh that speaks of the friendship that Milken and Helcrani share. It was composed and written by the great Browniin bard Ooindohlao. Their voices blend together in a seamless harmony, leaving those who have never heard it awestruck. Those Helcrani that know the words lend their voices to the song. When it is finished, there is another moment of silence during which each Milken is supposed to raise their treasured item into the air, and say a silent prayer to Avá, thanking her for bringing the Helcrani to them, for they believe that they could not have what is most important to them without their cherished friends.
After the ceremony, the Milken and Helcrani return to Milkengrad, and have a large feast prepared by the Slingers Guild and Helcrani chefs. The feast generally has a higher turnout than the actual ceremony, but most of the Milken do not mind too much, although there might be some grumbling from the exhausted Slingers. They are content to share in the camaraderie that the Helcrani offer to them. The day is finished in celebration, with shared hope for the future, and a renewed promise of friendship.