Directly north of Locastus, City of Mirrors, lies a vast, open country of highlands, peat-bogs and moors, an undulating sea of grass, bracken and weathered, moss-blanketed boulder fields, dotted with rock outcroppings, dense juniper thickets and struggling copses of wind-gnarled trees.

The area itself, riven through by deep, narrow gulleys, arroyos, bogs and sink holes, can - by its very geography - be hazardous to the unwary, inexperienced traveller, but it is also the habitat for a vast vareity of unfriendly species, such as the Ochre Bees, the giant, man-eating Greycats and, although rare, the slate-grey, nondescript snake called the Emerald Mouth, whose bite can kill in less than an hour.
In addition, the maze-like nature of the moors and the many caves, nooks and crannies that riddle its fabric also makes it ideal country for bandits, highwaymen and bands of outlaws.

All factors considered, the Northern Moors are an exceedingly dangerous place, one it is not advisable to attempt to cross without an experienced guide (and heavy weaponry).

However, no entity on the moors, human or animal, is more feared then the Whisperweed, the Devil Reed, the stealer of souls and the bringer of death and madness to all who hear the sighing of the breeze through its bristly fields.

Description

The Whisperweed, in itself, is quite nondescript - an innocent-looking, reed-like plant growing in small clusters in protected hollows and depressions throughout the moors. It seems to prefer proximity to water and never grow more than 1000 ft above sea level, leaving the higher plateaus free of the plant.
The stem - seldom taller than 5 ft - is segmented and quite stiff, almost like a bamboo or a regular reed stem, and of a uniform, ash-grey colour. The reed is crowned by a soft-looking, feather-like tuft, similar to a grey-brown feather duster, which moves at the sightest breeze.

The reed is deeply rooted and is quite hard to pull out of the ground. Any attempt to do so without wearing gloves will result in cuts and lacerations from the sharp, ragged edges that line the stem.

Whisperweed grows in small clusters, each between a few square feet up to a good-sized field. Each cluster is formed around one single original seed, slowly spreading outwards as the root system expands underground.

If one would observe a Whisperweed field, one would notice that the wind causes complex, languid wave-interference patterns among the individual reeds, persisting long after any gust of wind has abated. If a mammal of any type were to walk among the Whisperweed, one would see the gently undulating ripples start to converge around the intruder, like the ripples of a stone thrown into a pond, but in reverse.

The danger of the Whisperweed lies in the gentle, susurrating sound produced as its tufted crowns move with the ever-present wind. The sound has a powerful subliminal or hypnotic effect on all mammals, causing them to grow drowsy, disoriented or unconscious, the effect varying in proportion to the strength of the wind.

To go near a Whisperweed field on a windy day without any type of ear protection is to instantaneously drop to the ground, reduced to a catatonic state.

Although the plant-collective is totally mindless, it uses its soporific whisper as a stratagem for hunting. The victim, once incapacitated, will be kept in hibernation until it dies from starvation or exposure, whereupon it will decompose in the natural order of things and the freed nutrients soak through the earth to feed the roots of the Whisperweed field.

Oddly enough, only mammals seem to be affected by the Whisperweed's susurrus - insects, reptiles and birds are completely unaffected by it and, indeed, some seems to be attracted by it. The Speckled Moorloom, a tiny, almost flightless bird common to these lands, always builds its nest on the ground among the Whisperweed stalks, safe from rodents and foxes, but, sadly, not from snakes.

Although some people has been rescued in time after being stunned by the Whisperweed chorus, they almost always suffer psychological trauma, forever after hearing the whispering of the wind like an incessant ringing in their ear. Suicide and madness are common in those who have once fallen under the spell of the Whisperweed.

Some notes

1. The villages and mining communities of the Northern Moors are of course aware of the danger of the Whisperweed and go out of their way to exterminate any Whisperweed population near their homesteads and pastures. The preferred method is to stand well back and throw incendiary grenades and shoot fire-arrows at the field. (This could be an easy, if realistic, mission for a group of fledgeling adventurers)

2. The Grassdancer tribes, the original inhabitants of these badlands, revere the Whisperweed as sacred, a manifestation of the spirits of the earth and the air.

Their schamans are, through intense mental training and the infusion of weird, mind-altering herbal brews, able to withstand the susurrus of the Whisperweed for short periods of time, both as a test of their supernatural powers, a certificate of their status and a means of recieving visions from the spirits.

An apprentice Grassdancer schaman must endure an entire night standing in a Whisperweed field before he is considered a fully trained schaman. During this baptism of fire, the chorus of the Whisperweed in conjunction with the psychotropic infusion will produce intense, often terrifying hallucinations which is seen as his first contact with the spirit world.

When the Locastrian forces were consolidating their claim on this land some fifty years ago, the Grassdancer guerilla often escaped the better equipped Locastrians by leading them into a Whisperweed field.

3. Whisperweed fields can be a treasure trove to the person who knows how to enter them safely. The equipment, jewellry and coinage of of dead and/or unconscious victims can only be accessed by those who know the secrets of the Whisperweed. (Do I need to say more?)

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