Yes, the above passage was taken from the slurred ravings of a sailor I found in a tavern that was exceedingly seedy even by the standards of Marsooth, but it cannot be dismissed merely as an invention inspired by ingesting too much of either either sea-water or ale. Though the sailor in question, a grizzled old sea dog, looked as if he had spent too much of his life ingesting copious quantaties of both the above mentioned liquids, I still deem this a mystery worthy of exploration. Such is my imaginative spirit.. Besides, life in Marsooth has begun to gall me. I detest the filth and rapaciousness of this vice ridden purgatory..
(Two months later)
Based on my knowledge of the local geography that I have learned so far, I have obtained this meager amount of lore about the region where much of my quest is destined to take place.
One of the numerous tropical isles dotting the exotic waters of the Southern Seas, Bagoorah is a crescent shaped landmass that is a hundred leagues across and possesses a jagged, shoal edged coastline that is twice as long. Due to the extreme dangers of navigating its treacherous shores, most sea-captains from Haracon choose to give the place a miss, replenishing their provisions at the smaller islands that form a somewhat concentric circle around the larger ‘‘main’’ island of Bagoorah. The name of this place is derived from the neighbouring islands that are populated by kindred peoples of the animist Iskanto culture whom revere the creations of nature, holding them as powerful symbols representative of the natural forces of creation and fecundity. One of the most prominent icons in their primitive religion, holding as it does a position second only to the great Sun and Sea in preminence, is that of the tree. Worshipping the towering forest giants of their rolling hills and valleys as earth spirits capable of propitiating any prayer put to them by a traditional village medium, the natives call the giant flora ‘‘Obasa’‘, which can be taken to mean in my rough translation, ‘‘grand-father’‘. It is the belief of the Iskanto that when the world was first being created by their gods, the trees were the first of all living things to come into existence, thus meriting the position of great elders that the gods subsequently awarded them with. In those primiveal days, the Obasa were not confined to reside in one spot eternally, anchored there by roots that refuse to be removed by even the most determined force or will. Nay, in that early time the Obasa could travel from region to region on their mobile roots, as free to wander as any man or beast.
Unfortunately for them, this ability was confiscated when the oldest among them grew arrogant with their own percieved superiority, and begun to a campaign to subjugate all of eartly creation to their tyranical will. Awed and terrified by the power and strength of the Obasa, the other tribes of plants and beasts fled to the gods, seeking their aid. After listening to their desperate petitions, the gods were so incensed that they decreed that the Obasa henceforth would no longer be able to wander freely. Their roots would imprison them, no longer allowing them to work their mischief aginst their weaker and younger cousins whom they had sworn to protect and guide, instead of enslaving them as they had so callously done. Crushed and humbled, most of the Obasa swore never again to forsake the role of guiding elders that had been invested unto them so long ago. But not all of them were agreeable to the prospect of having to surrender themselves to such well-warranted repentance. Some leaders of the Obasa remained defiant, woving that their people would refuse to oblige their natural inferiors in any kind of role whatsoever if their ability to wander was removed from them. And so they fled the land, fleeing on the backs of giant fish that were agents of the Sea Lord, a being sympathtic to their plight, and ceased their flight only when they had reached their refuge on the mainland of Bagoorah. There their ancient reign of tyranny holds as if preserved through some artificial device of fate’s mischief, much as it once did over the peopled lands in the eld eons of creation. So goes their ancient myth. A childish and contemptible superstition to most visitors that sojourn in these parts, but I found myself intrigued by the ideas of walking trees that struck terror and fear into all who beheld them. After all, were not the old tales of my country replete with the haunting presence of the dryads? Romantic that I am, I made up my mind to test the veracity of this old legend. The beliefs of this primitive people had reminded me somewhat of the legeds that surrounded my own rude and wild distant ancestors, kindling the imagination of my spirit.
In the dead of night, I set off for the island in a small native boat, stealing away under the cover of darkness across the small strait that seperates Bagoorah from its smaller cousins. Had the natives noticed my heading in the direction of that omnious place, they would have prevented me from leaving, by force if neccessary. Such is the sentiment of powerful dread and fear that pervades their perception of that place.
As the sun rises, I finally see the forbidden horizon of Bagoorah looming before me. It is as I had expected. A thick blanket of lurid green vegetation chokes the coastline, leaving only a tiny strand of sand that can be seen by the eye. And even that is partially concealed by the thick mist that hovers like a permanent cloud over these waters. Projecting out of this oppresive mass of vapour emerge the proud heads of mighty giants, the noble cypress and cedar titans that arrest the sight of all who gaze with awe upon these majestic monarchs that nature has imposed on the lesser species of vegetative growth.
Even as this thought crosses my head, a powerful breeze sweeps through the lofty branches of these titans, giving their movements in the mist shrouded pre-dawn a most eldritch and unsettling animation of movement. I smile as I see how such a profound trick played on the bewildered senses of a simple primitive, might easily lead him to belief that these soaring trees might indeed possess a quality of life most peculiar.
A terrible roar suddenly emerges, and all thought instantly halts. My blood runs cold as my terrified mind scrambles to locate the possible source of this violent cry. What manner of dread beast lurks here?
And then I see it. A vast form moving towards the coast, crushing everything in its path. The rapidly growing light reveals it to be a tree! I begin to scream at this un-natural spectacle. As my horrfied eyes remained fixed in terror, they detect this humongous cavity that yawns out from the gnarled trunk of this monster. It almost seems as if that hedious roar is emerging from that gaping maw! Gods preserve me, what tragic folly have I commited in coming to a place where such a monstrous abombination should dwell!
(Here the narrator’s self-running commentary comes to a sudden and violent end as a large mass of rubber roughly the size of a small boulder, makes fatal impact with his tiny craft, smashing both him and it immediately).
As the ill-stared hero of this misguided quest discovered in the final moments of his life, Bagoorah is indeed home to vast trees that possess the ability to move around on roots that are capable of being detached from the ground in order to provide easy mobility to their owners.
Calling themselves the Ragas or ‘‘elder born’’ as these sentient beings so rightfully are when one considers their ancient orgin and extreme age, they can often be mistaken for more mundane large cypressess or oaks by the unwary, but in truth, are neither. Lacking the noble and straight trunks of these stately forest monarchs, the walking trees of Bagoorah will on closer scrutiny, prove to have somewhat twisted and mishappen trunsk, making them resemble grotesquely bloated shrubs rather than true trees. Their branches and the profusions of leaves that are borne on them, are also most unlike that of those characterizing true trees. Both these features are extremely elongated in shape and taper to very narow edges, giving them an almost whip-like appearance. Capable of being moved freely, they function much the way the tentacles of a squid would, being used to coil around anything that the trees wish to seize.
Much of their strange physiology can be explained by the fact that the soil of Bagoorah is rather lacking in the rich nutrients required for vigorous plant growth, a fact that is somewhat concealed by the rich and luxuriant growth of vegatation on this thickly forested island. To combat this lack of sustenance in the soil the native flora of Bagoorah has developed an interesting evolutionary trait:Carnivorism. By ingesting other plants and animals, many species of plants have found a viable source of nutrients with which to sustain themlseves. In fact, they are voracious predetors that will trap and devour any living thing that strays into their reach, aided amply by the vicious arsenal of weapons with which nature has lavished on them. Potent toxins that paralyze and thorns capable of slashing large animals open, are the norm of this evolutionary arms-race. Many of the native gaur that abound on this place, have often found themselves ending up as the prey of the very foliage which they had hoped to snack on.
And lording over this terrible array of flesh-eating flora, loom the walking trees themselves. Roaming like a terrible cloud of doom over the entire breadth of the island, they shuffle forth on their roots, snatching anything vaguely edible that they encounter, and stuff the unfortunate creature into the vast hole located right in the middle of their trunks. In that pit-like orifice, powerful digestive juices slosh around in a slanted passage that leads from the hollow, awaiting the prey that will quicly disolve to simple proteins whistle it is stil alive. Such is the gruesome fate of any lesser creature that have the misfortune to encounter these unholy terrors.
The smaller trees themselves are often at risk of being eaten by their larger kindred, testament to the bitter conflicts that exist among the various groups of which their population is made up of. Various tribes exist, each usually consisting of no more than a family group of ten trees, and all these tribes, despite being identical in almost every way from genetics to their common beliefs, are in bitter rivalry with one another. This pervasive animosity stems from an important dispute:All these various family groupings cannot agree on which leading elder of the clans is the most ancient among the Ragas, thus leading to a simmering feud over the right to supremacy that that will never end. Age among the Ragas is revered, and the oldest patriach among them all is entitled to the greatest reverence that an elder patriatch can command from those inferior to him in age, and thus by default, lore and wisdom. And wisdom should take precedence above all else when it comes to exercising authority and dominance, as per their somewhat utopian concept of idealized leadership. With things in this rather chaotic state, the oldest Ragas patriaches fear assasination by the followers of a rival claimant and have thus decreed that any intruders who tresspass into the tribe’s domain must be ruthlessly dealt with.
Despite their even remotely resembling no other sentient creatures in existence, the Ragas have developed a form of culture that is fairly advanced for a group of mobile plants. Each tribal group as stated previously, revolves around an ancient patriach who usually fertilizes the seeds of the tribe’s females during the wet monsoons of Bagoorah that ensure an abundance of water and dislodged soil from the many rivers, both of which make sure that young saplings will sprout robustly during the first few months of their existence. During this period, his leaves will begin to sprout masses of a green powdery stuff that his branches will reach out to smear the flowers of the females with, begining the process of fertilization. Once he has finished performing this procedure on every female in the tribe, only then do his sons, the younger trees, move to fertilize their mothers and sisters. This custom which might be acurately described distastefully as incest by more convenetional races, is perfectly acceptable to the Ragas who see procreation for what it is. This also explains why the only time of peace that exists between the various tribes is during the seasons of fertilization when the Ragas refrain from attacking intruders, especially mature young males and females engaged in the process of enlarging the common population. Offspring that arise from from unions that take place between Ragas of two warring tribes, are left unmolested by both until they come of an age when after having spent time wandering in the swaths of terrotiary controled by the tribes of both parents and listening to their respective claims and knowledgable disocurses, they choose the tribe to which they wish to belong.
The Ragas communicate with one another via a deep series of loud, powerful moans that can be heard reverbrating for miles around. Each moan, though similiarly booming and intimidating, carries a different meaning and purpose. For example, when two fully mature Ragas from rival tribes encounter one another, they begin moaning at one another in the hope that their foe will back down and retreat, if both of them happen to be of equal size and power. Eager to continue their carefully cultivated long existence, most Ragas refrain from putting themselves in peril by engaging in a battle where the outcome is unclear. So they will rely on sheer confidence and intimidation to push a potential attacker into submission by using their powerful vocalization to drive away the enemy. But the same jarring hoots employed for this purpose, might sound exactly like the noises a female Ragas would make warning an adolscent sapling not to accidently stray into the domain of a rival clan where his life would be in certain peril.
Just as interesting is the fact that the Ragas have developed a somewhat primtive form of writing. Often inscribed in dirt, it is a disorganized system of crude pictographs scratched into the dirt by the less than nimble appendages of a Ragas. Usually they are left there to inform younger and more inexperienced members of the tribe of where the best foraging can be sought, or the places of mortal danger to be avoided. Ocasionally though, some elder Obasa pens a detailed essay on the secrets of and creation of nature, anxious to ensure that his younger breathren continue the proud tradition of their ancestors by inheriting the vast, accumalated knowledge and wisdom of the latter. Should the same elder happen to encounter a young sapling in the vicinity of the area where he wrote his essay, he wil begin to question the youngster on its key points, and if the youngster can provide only unsatisfactory answers, the elder inflicts brutal punishment by ripping off one of his fresh but fragile branches. The broken stump will serve as a reminder that the penalties of laziness where the imbibing of ancestral knowledge is concerned. Almost constant isloation from the elders is no excuse for not wanting to learn.
The Ragas are extremely fond of feasting on guano. Sizable mounds of these highly fertile manure can be sometimes found in profusion, and if consumed rapidly, it will instantly provide a Ragas with a vitality that his typical diet of plants and animals cannot. For this reason, the native vutures that produce this precious gift are highly revered by the Ragas and are seen as servants of the Gohar, the lord of the skies who displays his pity for these exiles by sending his winged minions to ensure that they will always have this highly valube resource to feed off. Desperate to display the gratitude of his people, a Ragas will sometimes slay dozens of beasts and then dump them before the vultures, eager to let Gohar know that his zealous servants are well cared for. Any Ragas who implies otherwise by stupidly killing or eating a vulure, is instantly hunted down and smashed to a pulp, with the shattered particles of his body scattered into the sky to let Gohar know that vengeance has been served against the one that bites the hand who feeds him.
Most fascinating of all about the Ragas is the thick white sap that constantly seeps out of their bark. Quickly hardening into a spongy and maleable material, the Ragas often scrape it off and shape it into large, roughly shaped spheres. A peculiar custom exists among them where if a Ragas encounters a strange creature whose intentions towards him he does not understand or know, he hurls one of these projectiles at the creature in question with great velocity to determine if the creature will be formidable enough to hurl it back at him with even greater force. This enables him to come to a conclusion as to wether he is superior to the potential threat that confronts him. Some unaturally vicious and ego-obssessed Ragas like to throw these missiles at each other back and forth in the hope that one will evantually emerge the stronger and more powerful, proclaiming him the mightiest thing in the jungle.