The Boreal Lands

General

(Image to be added)

The Boreal Lands

Threa's Boreal Lands are the taigas and tundras north of the Forest Lands. They extend from coast to coast, touch both the Endless Waves and the Eternal Sea. It's a cold and humid region where snowfall is more common than rain. Coniferous forests and arctic shrublands are the only types of vegetation that can make it here. Native animal species are thickly covered in fur, feathers, or fat, or developed other methods to deal with the low temperatures.

Despite being less hospitable than the Forest Lands, civilizations have managed to emerge in the Boreal Lands. Settlements of the Gren Kingdom have grown in the most southern taigas of the Verdant Valley and Sokan colonies have been founded in the Frigid Frontier - the southern edge of the Boreal Lands east of Threa's Spine. The native inhabitants are the Wolshaks and the Truzlin. The former live in stationary packs with huge territories; the latter live in nomadic tribes that follow herds of woolly mammoths around.

Geography

A couple of massive mountain ranges exist within the Boreal Lands - Threa's Spine and Varhal's Ridge. They share the former with the Forest Lands; the latter with the Forest Lands and the Frozen Wastes. Heap of Heat, despite being rather small, is one of the most interesting clusters of mountains here. It has been created by multiple hotspots beneath the surface and warms up the region around so much that pine trees may grow around it, despite being located in the tundra. Overall, the Boreal Lands, with the exception of the tundra, are very hilly and mountainous just like the Forest Lands south of them. The tundras are very flat and only feature low mountain ranges and shallow hills.

The waters of the Boreal Lands are numerous but not exactly noteworthy. Only the huge lakes of the Verdant Valley, which sprawls across the Forest Lands and Boreal Lands, are of interest at a continental scale. Most rivers and lakes can be found in the taigas because that's where the most elevated regions lie and hence the most springs. The tundras only have few and small rivers. Yet there isn't a lack of fresh water. Local wildlife can simply eat snow in winter and in summer the snow melts and forms temporary ponds and streams.

Climate

It's very cold in the Boreal Lands. Summer and late spring are the only times the temperature is above 0°C. Even then it isn't hot, but pleasantly mild. It can become quite hot; temperatures of over 30°C have been reported in the taiga during extreme summers. Usually the hot season is a bit warmer than spring is in the temperate zone. The winters are much colder. Frost claims the surface and even reaches into the ground. The summers thaw it again, except in the tundras of the Boreal Zone. The winters there are so cold and long that the ground is permafrost. Interestingly enough, the taiga's extreme winter minimums lie beneath those of the tundra, despite lying further south.

While the mean temperatures are low, mean humidity is high. Precipitation is common but primarily occurs as snow. Rain can only happen during the warmer times. The tundras are located in an arid belt but they're still humid. It's simply so cold that not a lot of water evaporates so the rate at which the tundras dry out is as low and sometimes even lower than the rate at which new water is added to the region through rain- or snowfall. Swamps and bogs are a result of this.

Flora and Fauna

Two distinct ecosystems make up the Boreal Lands - taiga and tundra. The taigas begin at the border between mixed forests and coniferous forests. Due to the low temperatures and the short phases that allow growth, deciduous trees can't establish themselves there. Yet leafy plants, either evergreens or deciduous, do grow there. They consist of small shrubs, bushes, various kinds of flowers and similar plants. Some boreal woods are very dense. Yet there are more clearings and patches of open areas here than there are in the Forest Lands, because there's more areas where the soil isn't nutritious enough to support the growth of trees. Wildfires help. Natural fires renew the soil and rejuvenate the forests, but also creating clearings that take time to overgrow. They aren't a common occurrence. Sometimes a whole century lies between two forest fires.

At the northern edge of the taigas, the forests rapidly lose density until only a few small, malnourished conifers grow here and there. Beyond the last trees lie tundras. Here only mosses, mushrooms, lichens, grasses, bushes, and shrubs can survive. The growing seasons are simply too short for trees of any kind. Huge, cold scrublands are the result. They can be rather beautiful despite their lack of trees, because of their flowers. They bloom during summer and display all kinds of colors while insects and small birds buzz between the blossoms.

Despite the harsh climate, not only small creatures have made the Boreal Lands their home. Most of the inhabitants are mammals, avians, and insects. The great majority of cold-blooded species simply can't bear the short warm seasons. Even Trezkul, despite not being cold-blooded, avoid the taigas. It requires too much energy from them to remain warm in such a climate. The Truzkul don't have any issues with this. Their thick fur keeps them warm. Truzlin and Wolshaks have adopted the same approach to handle the climate and hence are the only humanoids that are native to this region. Trezlin, before they began wearing clothes, simply couldn't deal with the cold. Even when wearing furs the majority feels uncomfortable in this region. Sozkul, despite not being furred, inhabit the shores of the Boreal Lands. They simply rely on their fat for insulation.

Examples for especially noteworthy creatures that inhabit the Boreal Lands are winter wargs, large grim wolves, and woolly mammoths. The last two are very important for the Truzlin tribes. Grim wolves are tamed, utilized as loyal companions and even mounts. The large herds of mammoths are the tribes' primary source of food, fur, and leather. Especially the tribes of the tundra rely on them. Summed up, the taigas and tundras are inhabited by plenty of animals, small and large, mostly mammalian and furred.

Frostberry Bush

This plant is a small coniferous shrub. During summer its red flowers bloom. Once pollinated, they turn into little red berries with even smaller black seeds within them. The fruits are sweet and popular among herbivores. Truzlin like them, too, and dry them to turn them into a form of sugary ration. Hunters use them to get that extra bit of energy they need to chase their quarry down. Its name stems solely from the fact that it grows exclusively in the Boreal Zone.

It's also a noteworthy plant because the Sokans have become rather fond of it as well. They grow it on large fields in the Frigid Frontier and make a special wine out of it. They call it frost wine. It has become a delicacy but is only really popular throughout the northern frontier because its higher alcohol content means it burns hotter down the throat and makes a person feel warm for longer than common wine does.

Natural Resources

Hunting is more difficult in the Boreal Lands than in the Forest Lands, because there's less prey. However, some beasts are so large that even killing just one allows the successful hunter to feed their people for multiple days. A single mature woolly mammoth can easily feed a whole Truzlin tribe for a few weeks. The fur and pelts of the local wildlife can be turned into coats and pants that will even keep a Blazlin warm in the frosty temperatures. Both their texture and their good insulation make them highly valued among the people that live south of the Boreal Lands and hence they've become the major export of Truzlin tribes.

Fishing is also more difficult in the Boreal Lands than it is further south due to a smaller fish population. Winter makes it even harder because some of the rivers and lakes freeze over and the ice can become too thick to break. Fast flowing waters are naturally not affected by this. An advantage the Boreal Lands have over the other regions is that fishing is much safer. There's no Azkul or Mazkul in the rivers; so they can't threaten inland fishers. Fishing at the shores can still be dangerous if Sozkul notice the fishermen or rather their catch and attempt to take it. Hunting the rotund kul is also rather lucrative because they covered in thick layers of fat. This makes them a great source of blubber; another good the Truzlin can exchange with the people of the south or tribes that live further inland.

Foraging for edible fruits and plants, spices, or useful herbs isn't easy in the Boreal Lands. The variety of plants that grow here is rather low due the harsh climate. Local healers have to rely on a limited supply and choice of medical herbs. Recreational natural drugs are even more scarce. Good plant fiber is also not easily acquired. Hemp, linen, and similar simply do not grow here.

Agriculture is barely possible in the Boreal Lands. Only very tough plants that grow quickly in spring and summer can be successfully cultivated here, but the locals don't engage in farming at all. Only the Sokan and Gren do, and they've to toil hard to make it worth it. The situation is worse in the tundras; no kind of crop beyond grass for hay can grow there.

Taming animals is a much more promising endeavor. However, the only kind of animal here that's suitable for livestock are goats and perhaps some of the flightless birds. The other herbivores can't be properly domesticated. There are plenty of predators that can be tamed. There are many wolves and grim wolves. The latter are so large that Truzlin can use them as mounts. Wargs can be tamed and used as mounts as well, but it's more difficult. They are vile beasts that only give in to a rider if they're stronger than them.

Lumber can be easily found in the taigas. The local wood is of a good quality and very durable. Due to its resin it's resistant against parasites, be it plants or insects, and durable even in harsh weather. It also tends to be easy to shape even into intricate objects. However, the Truzlin and Wolshaks only rarely fell trees, and the southern nations have only a few lumber camps in the Boreal Lands. The wood is barely being exploited. None of the deposits of useful stone are being exploited either, except for a few Sokan quarries for sandstone and granite in the Frigid Frontier. Granite is especially common in the mountain ranges, naturally.

Ores, even surface ores, are plentiful in the Boreal Lands. They're almost untouched because their exploitation has begun rather recently and is only advanced by few. Iron, gold, silver, copper, tin, and lead can be found all over the region, but no major deposits have been found yet. Only the Sokans have a few tin and silver mines in the Frigid Frontier. They eagerly exploit them using Truzlin slaves. The Gren Kingdom have send a few expeditions into the Boreal Lands to find ores, but so far without any luck. The Truzlin don't assist them, despite their good relations, because they don't give foreigners a reason to come into their ancestral homelands.

Known Locations

All points of interest in the Boreal Zone are natural. There never has been any civilized nation in the far north, or at least none that left any traces. At most one might find the remains of abandoned Aezkul outposts in the mountains. The natural locations can be quite beautiful, including sights such as snow covered peaks, frozen lakes, polar caves, and glades which are covered in blooming flowers during the warm season. Not many people live here, so the region is even more wild and untouched than the Forest Lands.

However, the above statement only applies to the tundras and the northern taigas. Near the southern edge, there are a few larger villages and even a few towns. The oldest one are Gren. People of the Dukedom Manhomir have spread even all the way into the northern Verdant Valley and live peacefully alongside the native Truzlin tribes. It's quite different in the east. Sokan colonists have forcefully taken large swaths of land from the local Truzlin to expand the Empire. Their communities are only small so far, because the Sokans much prefer to colonize the regions in the south, but they mean trouble for the Truzlin and Wolshaks nonetheless. Said furred people build settlements out of bone, wood, and hide. They are few and far between and don't leave traces that last throughout the ages.

Natural Locations
Frigid Frontier

The Frigid Frontier is the border region between the Forest Lands and Boreal Lands east of Threa's Spine. It's the land the Sokans are violently taking from the native Truzlin and Wolshaks to colonize it. Colonization efforts began in [TBD]. Only a few colonies have been founded so far, primarily nearby the shore. Only one of them could be considered a town size-wise. It's called Frigid Harbor and the primary way for new colonists to come into the region. Naturally the Wolshaks and Truzlin aren't just going to give their lands up without a fight. They're using guerrilla tactics to harm the Sokan Empire wherever they can to make the colonization of their lands less profitable.

Apart from this conflict, the region isn't exceptional. It consists of mixed and boreal forests as well as a few natural, small open areas. Some are merely clearings, others can be considered miniature grasslands. One of the most notable geographical features is the Icestream, the largest river of the region. It flows from the northern half of Threa's Spine all the into the Eternal Sea. Frigid Harbor lies in its delta.

Heap of Heat

Heap of Heat is a volcanic mountain range located in the far eastern regions of the tundra. It has been created by multiple hotspots beneath the planet's crust. The volcanoes they created are low, shallow, and still active. They haven't erupted in a long time, but they continuously spit and leak small amounts of lava, creating small streams and ponds. Clearly there's a lot of volcanic activity below the surface. Many natural hot springs, geysers, and mud pots have been created by it. It also warms up the surrounding soil. Permafrost doesn't affect the regions in the vicinity of the Heap of Heat.

This has allowed a boreal forest to grow across and around the volcanic mountains, a pine oasis in the otherwise cold, shrub and grass dominated tundra. A blessing for the Truzlin tribe that has found the Heap of Heat, the Ashfur Tribe. Their nomadic route leads them around the mountain, from one hunting ground to the next. While there's plenty to hunt, their life isn't easy. Wolshak packs have tried time and time again to take the Heap of Heat by force. It's a constant struggle for the Ashfurs.

Varhal's Ridge

This mountain range sits right on the western coast of the Forest Lands and extends from the Great Bay all the way up north into the Frozen Wastes. It's the Verdant Valley's western border and was named after the legendary kulslayer and king Varhal Scalecutter, who was the very first king of the Suwehbens. In the proximity of the capital of the Gren Kingdom - Northorn - the mountain range is rather tame and safe, because Gren slayers regularly march into the mountains to cleanse it off Trezkul and other monsters. The rest of it is extremely dangerous and inhabited by many wild beasts.

Varhal's Ridge isn't only important to the Gren because it reminds them of their history and the most legendary member of their kind, but also because it provides iron and gold. The iron is necessary for tools and arms. The gold has made the royal family, the Scalecutters, extremely rich. The ridge provides other ores as well, just iron and gold are ores the Gren most commonly find where they mine.

Sozlin tribes also make good use of the mountains, or rather the coastal cliffs. They have built many settlements on outcroppings, in small bays, and on and in various other natural formations that are part of the range.

The Truzlin and Wolshaks of the Boreal Lands avoid the mountains usually. While it's easy to hide a settlement in them, they're difficult to navigate and there isn't as much prey to hunt as in the rest of the northern lands. They also can't use any of the ores due to their low technological progress, so there's even less reasons to be anywhere near Varhal's Ridge.

Verdant Valley

The Verdant Valley is a gigantic area located between Varhal's Ridge and Threa's Spine. It's so massive that it extends from the northern shores of the Great Bay all the way north to the border of the Western Tundra. Its southern half lies in the Forest Lands, its northern half in the Boreal Lands. Most of it is in the hands of the Gren Kingdom, but the realm's control doesn't extend far beyond the twilight zone between Boreal Lands and Forest Lands. Everything beyond that is in the hands of Wolshak packs and Truzlin tribes, so very wild and almost utterly untamed.

A series of lakes called the Verdant Lakes split the hilly valley in half from north to south. They are Threa's largest lakes. They're navigable, which is a blessing for the communities on their shores because ships are much quicker than carts and can carry larger loads. Unfortunately it's a blessing for pirates as well. There's a few crews out there that attack merchant vessels, but not so many as that trading across the Verdant Lakes isn't profitable anymore.

It's the lakes and the many rivers that feed them that make the valley as verdant as it is. Dense forests grow in its boreal and in its temperate half and make this area an amazing habitat for all kinds of animals. The Truzlin tribes that inhabit the north and the Wolshak packs that inhabit the entire valley benefit greatly from this. It's possible to keep all their mouths fed just by hunting and fishing. Naturally predators profit from this as well and in turn make the valley dangerous. Plenty of Truzkul live in its north and many Trezkul in its south. Yet the region remains attractive to the locals, being as fertile and bountiful as it is.

Settlements

Disclaimer: This section is not a complete list of all cities, villages, etc. in this region. There may be more, despite not being mentioned here.

[TO BE DETERMINED]

These settlements will be re-added after the pages of the various countries of the Boreal Lands have been worked over.