- Tangler Tree
Tangler trees have a snowy white bark with a texture akin to human skin, yet if you press harder into the bark, a steely hard frame could be felt. The inner, thicker layers of the Tangler tree is among the strongest of the hardwood trees, next to Ironwood and Snakewood, but the thinner outside layers of the tree are soft and weak. Just underneath the bark of a Tangler tree, a gelatinous transparent, red sap with healing properties can be extracted. Tangler trees have no leafs. Instead, they have long, thick branches that drop like a weeping willow. The roots of the Tangler tree are thick and gnarled best suited for keeping in place in rocky, mountainous regions. There is a slit in the trunk of the tree beginning at ground level, spanning halfway up the tree that reeks of rot. Within the slit are eight rows of serrated, shark-like teeth made for cutting easily into flesh and through bone.
Tangler trees are a carnivorous plant that captures its prey with its tendril-like branches, shredding into the prey until it becomes too full to eat anymore. When full, Tangler trees are lethargic and passive, remaining that way for weeks until it becomes hungry again. The average Tangler tree grows to a height of 26', but on rare occasions can grow up to a full 80' in height. Unlike most plants, Tangler trees possess a small amount of intelligence. This allows Tangler trees to learn from its environment and be able to reason with inhabitants to fit its best interests.
- Ember Tree
Ember trees have a burned, charred bark with the insides dying, not dead, but never fully alive. Ember trees have an eternal low, cindering burn beneath their bark. The smoldering within provides a low heat that could be refuge during particularly chilling nights in this cold environment. Due to the eternal cinder, ash is always produced, taking wind only to fall back and coat the forest floor. Ember trees are considered a hardwood and can be useful once shaved clean of the charred outside. When cut, the stump will suddenly rupture into a beautiful, lush tree full of life and color within 24 hours. Unfortunately, when this beautiful tree fully sprouts, it will burst into flames and smolder until it cinders back into what we know as the Ember tree.
Very little is known of the stunning tree that sprouts from the stump of a cut Ember tree. The transformation happens too quickly to perform proper studies on. It is unknown if they are even one in the same tree. When cut, an Ember tree stops burning. If an Ember tree is moved fully in tact, it will continue to burn as long as it remains within the Hollows. If removed from the Hollows, it's flames die and it becomes a dead charred log that was once a tree.
The only flora that grows within the Hollows that can actually be eaten are fungi. There are two different kinds of fungi that grow withing the Hollows. Those that grow near Tangler and Ember trees, and those that grow on corpses. Both are edible, but those that grow near the trees taste better than those that grow on bodies.
Piranhas are creatures roughly the size of a large house cat with thin hairless black bodies, a bone white skull-like head, and bone-like structures sticking out of its body in various places. Most commonly, these bone-like structures appear as thorny spinal columns trailing down the center of their back, or by thorn protruding from their elbows. Piranhas have triangular serrated teeth, like a shark, like the Tangler tree. These skull-faced swarms are called Piranhas by those who live in the Hollows for how they strip the flesh from the bones of their prey just like a school of actual piranhas. Hordes of these creatures have been recorded in numbers so great, they completely cover the forest floor. Piranhas are smart enough to figure out how to climb on top of each other in order to reach prey should the prey try to escape by going up trees or other heights. Their behavior is aggressive and demanding, but can be easily tamed as individuals. Piranhas can form bonds with creatures when a mutually beneficial relationship shows itself.
- Walking Hands
These creatures resemble a hand severed by the forearm the most. At the tips of the 'fingers' are talons they use to climb with and walk on, the end of the 'severed forearm' have two protruding thorns that resemble the chopped radius and ulna in an arm, and along the back of these creatures is a barbed spine, a 'tail'. this barbed spine contains a toxin that puts its prey to sleep. In the 'palm' of the walking hand is a slit that can open to a full circle with four rows of small needle-like teeth. Unlike the piranhas, the behavior of these creatures are scorpion-like and typically reclusive. They sting only when they need, like when hunting, or when threatened. People in the cities within the Hollows often keep walking hands as pets to ward off Piranhas which typically become vermin in these cities.
Walking hands are classified in two different subtypes, Warriors and Queens. Warrios are just that. Walking hands that purely fit the description above, but Queens have one addition that separate them from the rest. Queens have an egg sack surrounding its sides and up its barbed tail. The queens not only sting to defend itself or to catch a meal, but to restrain a host to which it can inject its eggs. Once the queen subdues its host, it stabs into the side of the host and lays its eggs, roughly the size of a ping pong ball, within. The eggs are fertilized within the host rather than by the warriors. The warrior are not needed in the fertilization process, yet outnumber the queens 10 to 1. Warriors are the expendable members of their species, so where ever a queen is found, a cluster of warriors are found as they are there to protect the queen, and its species.
These birds have a human intelligence and are quiet, wise, and generally pleasant to be around. Ravens make great informants and prefer to be unbothered and to themselves. Something different about these creatures is that they seem to see things the regular population cannot. They hardly specify exactly what it is they are seeing, but they do stir oblivious creatures away from these unseen threats.
Crows are the raven's belligerent, bastardized cousins. They're rude, loud, raunchy, and have generally antagonistic behavior. Essentially, crows are the assholes of the Hollows. Their behavior isn't that of hatred or anger, but merely that of joking cruel clowns. However, like the ravens, the crows do seem to see things that others cannot, so despite their abrasive exterior, it may be worthwhile to persuade one to keep you company if you're alone in the Hollows. Often when these crows see an unseen threat, their loud mocking behavior silences and sometimes they even flee the sight.
These are vultures and unlike their avian brethren, it is unknown if these unsightly creatures possess a human intelligence. They do not respond to any creature with a human intelligence, they don't speak to each other, and show no signs of ever communing. Despite this, the behavior of the vultures here are very unlike the behavior of vultures outside of the Hollows. They are completely silent except for rare occasions where they circle around an individual or a location. It is recorded that when this happens, the result is always a catastrophe. Whether that person dies, or that location becomes a wailing pool of death and disease. It is wise to be wary of the vultures as they seem to appear in flocks from nowhere and disappear without a trace when their business, whatever it may be, is done.
The most prominent creatures of this type are worms manifesting from decay-ridden grounds, tarantulas that make the empty skulls on the forest floor their home, and grubs that feed from the roots of the Ember and Tangler trees. All are edible.
When people speak of the natives, they are referring to the undead that originally inhabit the Hollows, the Undead that all the cities within the Hollows ward against, the undead that cannot be reasoned with or understood. There are undead in the Hollows, but there is a stark difference between the undead living within the protected walls of a city and the undead shambling about in the forest. The undead within walls are 'civilized'. They can speak in a language the commoner can understand, they can be reasoned with, they can abide by rules and laws and they are NOT native to the Hollows. All of the undead living withing Tidespeak, Ebonspire, or Fort Reave came from beyond the Hollows. The natives are the undead who have always been in the Hollows.
Despite the ordinary citizen being unable to understand the natives, their behavior has been observed for decades. There is clear enough visual evidence to establish that there are at least two different factions of undead with the suspected possibility of three. The fact of at least two factions rising to common knowledge is due to the observations of the natives fighting each other in groups. It is known as a fact there are at least two different factions, but there are arguments for a third faction due to long time researchers recording the behaviors of groups of undead. Beside the clear one faction against another, it seems one faction is allied with another. These researchers back this up with reports of the difference in behavior between these two suspected allied forces. To gloss over details, the main differences is that one group of these supposed allied natives tend to be much more up front and active, while the other group tends to stand back and observe the scene before acting too swiftly.
The natives typically don't attack the living on sight. This is where things become complex. The natives are proven to be intelligent unlike the common myth of them being mindless hordes. This is proven by case studies, witnesses, personal interviews, and state approved experiments to find out first hand how they behave.
When a living being is spotted by the natives, they -continued-
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. The Hollows is covered with Ember trees, dotted with Tangler trees along roads and city boarders. The skies are always blanketed with pale clouds. 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 inches deep and cover nearly every square foot of the dreaded forest.
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 that ward against the dead. These ruins are so important to keep up and maintain that specialists from all cities within, even Tidespeak, are sent out to do maintenance on the ruins. These maintenance workers 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 light of the moon, piercing through the clouds. 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 than 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.
- The Living Storm
The Living Storm is a gargantuan she-dragon named Sombornevihte Aetherius'rex. Everywhere she goes, storm clouds follow which can range from simple stormy skies with no rain, to a hurricane of torrent, hail, and lightning. 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 easily accessible, clean, drinkable water for those living within the Hollows. The Living Storm is not a blue dragon!
- The Skintaker
The other well-known inhabitant of the hollows is a lich who goes by the title "Skintaker." He's known for skinning people and making hats and other articles of clothing 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. The Skintaker is written off as insane, but he tends to know things given by the small fragments of information he brings to light. 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 or simply took the time and harbored the bravery to understand him.
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.