The Hollows is a forest of the dead. Not many things live within the Hollows, not even much plant life. The dominant species of plant taking over the Hollows is the Ember tree. Ember trees are only native to the Hollows. They cannot be found anywhere else in the world. An Ember tree is a tall, slender tree with a dark, charred surface. What makes Ember trees so different is that they're not exactly alive, and they are always burning. They do not burn with a raging fire, rather, they smolder slowly. If one is forced to stay a night in the Hollows, the heat from the Ember trees actually do well to combat the Hollow's frigid global location.
Only one other tree inhabits the forest, and that is the Tangler tree. It's very easy to tell a Tangler tree from an Ember tree in that a Tangler tree is snowy white. Tangler trees are thicker trees with no leaves, and thick branches that hang like a Weeping Willow's. Despite having no leaves, Tangler trees are very much alive. Their bark is smooth and feels remarkably like human flesh as a harder structure can be felt underneath the flesh-like membrane. When cut, the tree oozes a clear red sap that has healing qualities. On all Tangler trees, a vertical crease from the base of the tree up most of the trunk is seen and can open to reveal an overwhelming stench of decay, and eight rows of razor-sharp triangular teeth. These trees are opportunists, snatching up unexpecting or exhausted prey in their tentacle-like branches, crushing them to death, and devouring them. Tangler trees also seem to demonstrate some small amount of intelligence, capable of learning routines, or allowing an exchange of sap for food.
The Hollows is covered with Ember trees, seldom dotted with Tangler trees. The skies are always blanketed with pale clouds, the only exception being the nights of the full moon where the clouds partially clear. Small bodies of water take up little space in the Hollows. All bodies of water are crystal clear for the first few inches, but then quickly fade into a murky blackness. The sand underneath the bodies of water and near their edges is very fine, like silt. It can be easy to sink in the sand alone. Should you decide to wander near the water, you will feel a compulsion to get in, or look in. In either case, you will find a dead body in the water. That dead body will open its eyes, reach for you, and drag you into the water to become one of them. These bodies of water appear shallow from their area, but the actual depth is unknown. A lot of people believe these bodies of water are connected with the River of Styx, but that's up to debate, or to those brave enough to study them.
The forest floor is carpeted with a thick layer of ash from the Ember trees. Underneath that layer of ash are the bones of the deceased which are several feet deep and cover nearly every inch of the dreaded forest. Within the bones of the deceased are tiny sized skull-faced swarms and tarantulas that make the skulls of the dead their home. These creatures compose the forest's actual wildlife, and yes, they are both living creatures, and they are both carnivorous.
Well-Known Inhabitants & Wildlife
These skull-faced swarms are called Piranhas by those who live in the Hollows. Why? Well, they strip the flesh from your bones just like a school of actual piranhas, only these guys survive on the land. Their teeth are serrated and sharp. Hordes of these creatures have been recorded completely covering the forest floor. The best thing you could probably do when you suspect a swarm of Piranhas are buried under the ash and with the bones, is to run. Run and never look back. Never try to climb, they are smart enough to figure out how to climb on top of each other in order to reach you.
There also seems to be a population of vultures, crows, and ravens. No one really knows where the vultures come from as they tend to appear in flocks, then suddenly vanish as if they were never there. The crows are common, native, and intelligent. The crows commonly show an antagonistic behavior, too. Ravens are native, but much rarer. Ravens are also intelligent, but not antagonistic like the crows.
Outside of the Hollows, people have heard of a "Living Storm" that stays up to the north, but for those more familiar with the Hollows will know that the "Living Storm" is a massive she-dragon named Sombornevihte Aetherius'rex. Everywhere she goes, the storm follows, but she has never been recorded landing. She is the denizen of the skies and will not hesitate to obliterate those who invade her territory. It should also be noted that this dragon is the major source of clean, drinkable water for those living within the Hollows, so harming the dragon is very unwise, if possible. Also, those mistaking Sombornevihte for a blue dragon, or any other normal species of dragon is gravely mistaken.
One other well-known inhabitant of the hollows is a lich who goes by the name "Skintaker". He's known for skinning people and making hats out of their flesh. His behavior is rather volatile in that his personality can change on a dime, and often fluctuates between more or less desirable tempers. His actions can often times appear pointless or redundant as many of the things he speaks of doesn't make much sense or appear to have no meaning. This pretty much means he's crazy... But he does know things. No one really knows how long he's been around, but some of the natives believes he knows the answers to many of the mysteries of the Hollows, and that his nonsensical ramblings would make sense if people knew more of the Hollows.
During the day, the withering gasps of the dead can commonly be heard, but during the night, the howling moans of hordes of deceased will be the only thing you will hear. It isn't uncommon to see two different groups of undead fighting each other, but that does not mean they won't also fight you. There are a few cities encased by the Hollows on all sides, and they have done well to keep the dead under check. These cities use some form of defense which are most commonly walls or runes that burn the undead, should they pass. Cobbled roads pass through and connect these cities, and on each side of the road are the ruins keeping the dead out. These ruins are so important to keep up and maintain that specialists from all cities, even Tidespeak, are sent out to do maintenance on the ruins, and they are protected under a peace treaty all the nations agreed to.
Even though many dead are slain daily, and slay each other, their numbers always regenerate. There is, however, a time you can pass through the forest completely unnoticed by the dead. This time is during the night of the full moon. Many people are uneasy about passing through hordes of undead, but no matter how close you are to them, they never strike you. In fact, during this time, they all appear to be staring up at the sky. No more fighting, they all just stare, like they are hypnotized by something.
During the night of the full moon, the Howling Crags are also effected. Rather that hearing eerie, soulless howling, the worldly scar is dead silent, much like the dead that inhabit the forest. It is even said that it is safe traveling over the crags during this night. This one night each month is possibly the only night someone can get a peaceful, quiet rest in the Hollows. Unfortunately, something bad comes during the night of the full moon to counter the seemingly good things. Werewolves. Taking advantage of that one night each month where they won't be torn to pieces by the dead, they come out of hiding and scavenge the forest for dropped weapons and shinnies that came from the now dead people who once held them. Often times, they would attack unprepared parts of the cities within the hollows, and take away anything they desire, but this only happens when they see an opening, or an opportunity they think they will win.
Great Wyrm Coast
Great Wyrm Coast is the ocean that surrounds the continent around the Hollows area and beyond. Great Wyrm Coast is notorious for rough sailing and common tidal waves which crash against the cliffs Tidespeak was built upon. The sea is also infamous for hydra and other deadly sea creatures which are fond of capsizing sea-fairing vessels. The stationary hurricane out in the distance may have something to do with why sailing through the Great Wyrm Coast is so hellish. No one knows very much about the stationary hurricane, but there are rumors for why it's there, or what may be within it. Many of these rumors consist of a magical palace, artifact, or a colony consisting of a new race related to seakin that dwell within, or maybe that the hurricane is a prison set in place by a god to punish an immortal being. None of these claims have been proven to have any truth to them.
- Fast fact! Tidespeak was named because the city was built just above the tide's peak.
Things not to do
(Or you WILL die...)
- Teleport in/out of the Hollows.
(You will be pulled into the realm of the dead instead. The collective pull of the countless dead dragging you to their realm is more powerful than little ol' individual you.)
- Attempt to call in reinforcements from a separate world/universe/time/etc
(You will be calling for anything BUT the people you intend.)
(You will be invading "HER" territory. And no, "HER" is NOT the queen. She will come and get you if you do not leave her territory. Also, the locals need her to survive and death will become your greatest desire if you kill her, if you even can.)
- Look into, touch, or approach bodies of water
(You will be hypnotized, grabbed, and drowned in the body of water by the dead who reside within. The only exception is the ocean. Even then, the ocean has its own set of deadly problems.)
- Pass over the Howling Crags
(You will disappear forever, and no god/demon/devil/eldritch being will be able to save you. Ever... EVER. You will not escape. No matter what. EVER! The only time it is safe to pass over the death trap is during the full moon. Even then, I wouldn't if I were you.)
- Climb the white trees
(They will grab you, and they will eat you.)
- Travel at night
(This is when the dead are most active. With the exception to nights that fall on the full moon, armies of dead will be fighting in the forest.)
- Piss off the natives/locals
(Piss enough of them off and you might as well commit suicide.)
- Bury/leave behind/anything that will preserve the corpses of the dead
(Whether it's friend or foe, they will come back to life, and they will come to kill you.)
- Dismiss the thought that it appears a skull is looking right at you
(It's because that skull probably is looking right at you. If you discover that there is more than one skull looking right at you, you should starting running. Just run... and never look back!)