The Natural History of Furyondy
|gvdammerung writes "This is the story behind the history of Furyondy. From the glaciers that sculpted the Furyondian landscape and the first hominid and demi-hominid inhabits of the land to a present day accounting of climate, crops and resources, this article looks at Furyondy the land.
The Natural History of Furyondy
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author. The Natural History of Furyondy
by Glenn Vincent Dammerung (aka GVDammerung)
The Glacier Periods
Before the modern age, there was a time that only the elves remember. In that time, 35,000 years ago, much of the northern Flanaess was covered by a vast ice sheet. For untold years, this land was a howling wilderness of ice and snow. Towering glaciers extended from the northern polar regions to what is now the Nyr Dyv. Of this First Glacial Period, little is known. When the glaciers retreated, however, they shaped the land that is now Furyondy and the Northwest.
The retreat of the glaciers was gradual and where they retreated, life returned to Oerth. In the Flanaess of 25,000 years ago, the glaciers had withdrawn to what are now the Cold Marshes. Here great walls of ice rose and extended to the pole. In the shadow of the glacial face, tundra extended for miles south before giving way to an immense taiga forest. In the west, along the line of the Yatils, the taiga forest extended in an unbroken expanse from today’s Vesve Forest to the Suss. In the east, the forests skirted Lake Whyestil for leagues to the south before tall grass praires rolled to the shores of the Nyr Dyv. In this Second, or Little, Glacial Period, unique lifeforms, now all but vanished dominated the landscape.
A complete retreat of glacial formations had occurred by 15,000 years ago. The land then much resembled the lands familiar today, at least in general outline. The only remaining glacier of great extent was that associated with the Land of Black Ice. This Modern Period marks the beginning of current geologic history.
Early Hominids and Demi-Hominids
The Little Glaciation was dominated by early halfling cultures. While the highest civilizations belonged to the elves and dwarves, halflings dominated the landscape much as humans predominate today. Short and thickly built, the Stoor and Hairfoot halflings of the Little Glaciation little resembled the svelte halflings now familiar. Halflings first harnessed fire, first worked in stone, first domesticated animals and built the first permanent hominid settlements. While now classed as demi-humans, halflings bear little resemblance to other demi-human races and are more accurately classed as proto-hominids. It is believed that from halflings men first learned the rudiments of civilization.
The elves of 25,000 years ago enjoyed four highly evolved but divergent civilizations. In the far south, Grey Elven civilization flourished as it has since, apparently, pre-history. In the southern and middle woodlands, Wood Elves enjoyed a civilization only slightly less sophisticated than that they now possess. In the lands that would become Furyondy, Snow Elves predominated. Now confined to more narrow ranges with the fuller retreat of the cold, Snow Elves were remarkably adapted to the chill conditions of taiga and tundra. In the farthest of northern reaches, the distant Ice Elves remained secluded in the chill fastness of their snowbound fortresses. None of the elven civilizations then existant had demonstrable congress with the developing halflings or early hominids. Conditions were sufficiently harsh to make survival paramount over the dangers presented by cultural contact with potential rivals for resources.
The dwarves of the Little Glaciation are a study in contrasts. Enjoying a history of continuous civilization nearly as long as that of the elves, dwarven history is marked by odd cycles of barbarism. Perhaps in response to locale conditions or a poor ability to adapt to change, dwarven surface and near-surface civilizations rise and fall with startling regularity. In contrast, deeper dwarven delves are more constant and serve as redoubts of dwarven civilization when barbarisms claims their brethren nearer the surface. During the Little Glaciation, those dwarves dwelling near the surface experienced a descent into barbarism from which they have fully emerged only since the end of the glacial period some 15,000 years ago. While still possessing a civilization second only to the elves, Ice Age dwarves, unless emerging from Deep Oerth were little better than savages with advanced metal working skills.
True hominids of the period were of two stripes.
Neanderthal Man was a dead end genetic strain of humanity. Thick and broadly built, primitive, incapable of advanced thought and brutish, Neanderthals were yet well adapted for the harsh conditions of the Little Glaciation. Had they not faced competition and had extreme cold continued, it is not clear that the Neanderthals might not have faired better. Such was not, however, to be. Today, those Neanderthals encountered will be found only in the most remote mountains or in the farthest north and rarely elsewhere.
Competing with the Neanderthals were the direct descendants of modern man - Oerik-man. With a larger cranium, more flexible joints and a fully erect posture, Oerik-man was a gifted tool user and capable of extreme manipulations of his environment. Whether as the result of contact with proto-homind halflings or by his own invention, Oerik-man quickly developed tool using cultures. By that period beginning 15,000 years ago, Oerik-man was fully recognizable as human.
The Blackmoor Culture
The earliest human civilization to meet or surpass present achievements was the Blackmoor Culture that flourished at the beginning of the Modern Period, nearly 14,000 years ago, substantially north of present day Furyondy. From the archeological record, the civilization of Blackmoor was easily equivalent to any modern nation. Culture, weapon and armor manufacture and magic use were pronounced. Unfortunately, the Blackmoorians had to constantly struggle with aggressively barbaric neighbors, daily fighting not to be dragged back to the level of their more primitive neighbors. At the same time, Blackmoor faced the hostility of the last of the great, culturally advanced pre-human civilizations, centered on islands in the Nyr Dyv. The later human culture of the Isles of Woe would be built upon the remnants of this prior, pre-human civilization. Ancient Furyondy was caught between this clash of civilizations.
While the vitality of the Blackmoor Culture might have allowed it hold off its barbaric neighbors while simultaneously meeting the challenge of more the advanced pre-human civilization, such was not to be. Approximately 13,000 years ago, a mass extinction appropriately called The Blackmoor Event doomed the Blackmoor Culture and retarded the development of man for several thousand years.
During the Blackmoor Event, Oerth was bombarded by a number of iron-nickle meteorites. It is believed that a single large conglomerate body fragmented on entry into Oerth’s atmosphere. The resulting fragments, averaging 100 to 200 feet across, impacted Oerth’s surface. While the exact number of impacts is unknown at least 25 suspected craters are attributed to the Blackmoor Event in the Flanaess alone. The greatest number of strikes were concentrated in or near Blackmoor proper and effectively eliminated that civilization. Each impact created a crater in the area of 500 to 1000 feet deep and between 2,500 and 6,000 feet across, with circumferences ranging from 1.5 to 4.5 miles. The cumulative blast effects and ejecta devastated the areas surrounding the impact sites and caused several years of dim summers. The long term effect of the impacts was felt for the next two thousand years as civilization had to be rebuilt. Today, all but a few of the impact craters are severely weathered, eroded, flooded with silt or water or have been remade by the hand of man and nature.
Lake Cultures, the Yahetees and the Flan
In the aftermath of the Blackmoor Event, civilization gradually returned to early Furyondy.
By -11,000 CY, the Quag Lake Culture and Whyestil Lake Culture had reached early bronze age technology. Artifacts from this period show a remarkable rebound in workmanship from previous post-Blackmoor artifacts. The primary influence on the Quag Lake Culture is clearly dwarven, while that of theWhyestil Lake Culture shows predominantly elven influences. While there is no direct evidence of cultural exchanges in the archeological record between demi-humans and humans, it is presumed that such occurred to account for the pronounced stylings of the two dominant human cultures of the area. The present location of Highfolk seems to have been an early site of such exchanges. Certainly, artifacts from both the Quag and Whyestil Cultures have been found here suggesting a trade nexus that would overlap with known patterns of dwarven and elven habitation.
In contrast to the largely peaceful Northern Lake Cultures is that civilization which developed on the shores of the Nyr Dyv. Influenced by the human civilization of the Isles of Woe, the Yaheetes were an indigenous people who ranged from the Nyr Dyv in the central Flanaess to the Azure Sea and the southwestern Flanaess. Culturally advanced from contact with the civilization of the Isles of Woe, the Yaheetes were also corrupted by that contact. Artifacts reflect a culture obsessed with warfare, combat and a particularly bloody worship of what appear to be pre-human deities. What seems certain is that the Yaheetes controlled lowland Furyondy and were responsible for the extinction of the Whyestil Lake Culture. The Yaheetes also appear responsible for the disruption of the previously contiguous elven habitation of the Great Forest of the Western Flanaess. Elven records document warfare between the Yaheetes and the elves of the now vanished Western Forest of Furyondy and a general elven retreat.
Yaheete domination of Furyondy was to be short lived, however, as a new people moved into Furyondy from the north. The first Flan inhabitants of Furyondy appear to have been horse nomads pushing into the broken woodlands of Furyondy from the northern plans of the Flanaess. Scholars dispute whether these migrant Flan tribesmen were akin to the present Rovers of the Barrens or were associated with the developing Tostenhca civilization of the northeastern Flanaess. In either case, the encroaching Flan and the Yaheetes engaged in near constant warfare, bordering on genocide. Ultimately, the Flan prevailed, pushing the Yaheetes south and west until they were confined to a very narrow southern range, where they were eventually destroyed as a people by the arch-lich Vecna. Today, Yaheete ruins are rarely encountered. Though some ethnographers insist that Yaheete survivals exist in modern day Furyondy, nothing reliably supports this hypothesis. Rather, it is imagined that the Flan, and later the Ur-Flan, systematically blotted out any trace of the northern Yaheetes. The source of this seeming hatred is mysterious.
With the successful end to the genocidal war against the Yaheetes, dated to -10,000 CY, the Flan became the dominant human inhabitants of Furyondy until the time of the Oeridian Migrations.
Before leaving the discussion of the habitation of post-Glacial Furyondy, a word needs to be said about the fate of the demi-human inhabitants which coexisted with the earliest human populations.
The halfling populations were devastated by the Yaheetes and subsequently by the Flan. Settlement patterns were disrupted and centuries of nearly continuous tribal warfare between the Yaheetes and the Flan reduced the halfling population to a fraction of its former levels. While halflings would continue inhabit, and have continuously inhabited, Furyondy, their numbers have never recovered.
Much the same is true of the early elven populations. The Yaheetes coexisted peacefully with no one. Early elven populations retreated in the face of the corrupt Yaheetes, to the Great Western Forest of Furyondy, to Highfolk and the Vesve and south toward Celene. With the destruction of the last remnants of the Great Western Forest of Furyondy during the Migrations, elves essentially quit Furyondy. Those elves remaining in Furyondy represent isolated groups or individuals and not a definable independent culture.
Dwarves, in another of their historic cycles, rose to form a powerful civilization centered on Mount Radruundar northwest of present Exag. Indeed, legend holds that the High Clan of Radruundar possessed the Ax of the Dwarvish Lords. Certainly, the Radruundar Hold held tributary those human settlements of the Quaglands that developed from the earlier Quag Lake Culture. For several hundred years, great portions of the Yatils and all of the Clatspurs paid tribute to Mount Radruundar, before its seemingly inevitable decline.
The Physical Geology of Furyondy
Furyondy is essentially a well watered, fertile plain that slopes from the Yatils to the Nyr Dyv. Food grows in abundance. The materials for making cloth, flax, cotton and various hides, are also found in abundance. Mineral wealth in the form of gold is found predominantly in the southern extents of the country.
Furyondy’s wealth of non-mineral resources is due to the presence of a rich loess soil that covers the entirety of the Furyondian Plain from a depth of 50 ft to as much as 200 ft. Water from the Velverdyva, Att, Crystal and Veng rivers, as well as seasonal rains that come off of Lake Whyestil and the Nyr Dyv in squalls provide more than adequate moisture for the growing of crops and the development of herd animals.
Within the loess plain, three distinct ecosystems may be found. Where water is abundant but drainage is poor, wetlands of limited scope may exist. With better drainage, small to medium woodlands prosper, the oldest of which may harken back to the Great Western Forest of Furyondy. Furyondian nobles are zealous in protecting this sort of acreage for hunting and wood cutting is strictly controlled. Of course, prairie predominates. Taken together, as if seen from above, Furyondy presents a distinctly dappled appearance as wetlands, woods and prairie mingle.
The Furyondian substratum is composed of limestone with a granite basement. Karst caves, formed by water action, are common in upthrust areas and may extend for miles beneath the otherwise undisturbed surface. Connections to the Deep Oerth are not uncommon. The result of these highways beneath the ground is an unfortunate incidence of monster incursions from seemingly nowhere. The common folk story, The Farmer and the Anhkeg, has a very real basis in fact.
In addition to the foregoing generalizations, Furyondy has nine distinct microgeological areas that have played an important role in the country’s development. These terroir have allowed Furyondy to develop a wine industry second to none among human civilizations. Where other human nations speak of wine in primitive terms of its color and national origin, Furyondians speak of terroir, varietals and growths, the difference being that between a weapon and a mastercraft weapon, each gets the job done but the mastercraft weapon is in all ways superior.
Each year Furyondy receives an abundance of rain and snowfall.
In the spring, prevailing winds see rain squalls moving off of the Nyr Dyv in a northwesterly direction. Tornadoes and waterspouts are unusual but a dubious annual occurrence. If rains are particularly heavy, coupled with snow melt, flooding along rivers is a danger. The danger is most pronounced along the Velverdyva, Veng and Crystal Rivers in decreasing order.
In the summer, winds tend to be more westerly and summer thunderstorms are particularly strong in the southern parts of the country. Flooding is rarely a problem and damaging hail or tornadoes are infrequent. Temperatures in the summer can get very warm in all parts of the country but humidity tends to be less than might be expected due to lake breezes and the more constant westerlies.
Fall is the driest season, when little precipitation is likely. Furyondy is blessed with good weather for the harvest. Crops rarely rot in the field due to excessive moisture. Because of easy irrigation throughout the countryside, too dry a fall is also rarely an issue. The great fairs and tourneys of Libernen, Littleberg and Chendl take full advantage of early fall weather, which is mild. Late fall is unpredictable with early cold snaps a distinct possibility.
Winter brings heavy lake effect snows inland from Whyestil Lake as far south as Worlende. North of a line from Keristen to Littleberg to Caronis, snow is lighter but predictable. South of this line, snow is light and any snow melts quickly. Frequent snowless winters are not uncommon. Those areas close to the Nyr Dyv may be an exception and can have significant lake effect snows if a particularly strong cold front moves down from the northeast. These “northeasters” are the stuff of local weather folklore, particularly among resettled Shieldlanders who own winter weather bragging rights it seems. Temperatures in winter are generally not subzero, although a string of subzero nights in not uncommon in Fireseek and even Readying.
Wildlife, Exceptional Denizens, Game and Livestock
Leaving aside clearly monstrous creatures, which are scarce everywhere except in wilder border areas or where they emerge from Furyondy’s extensive cave systems, wolves are the most frequently encountered predator. Large cats are not infrequently encountered but tend to range widely enough not to cause as much alarm as the sighting of wolves. Bears are frequently encountered along the rivers, in wetlands and in forests and present the greatest danger of an accidental encounter.
Dragons are almost unheard of in Furyondy proper. A young to young adult dragon may lair for a time in a more remote rural area but any more mature creature either moves on or is hunted down. Attitudes toward dragons and dragon hunting vary. Some nobles take it as a sign of good luck to have a dragon lair nearby, provided it does not dine on local herds.
Free roaming undead are uncommon but not unheard of. Furyondy’s local history is as bloody as any other feudal realm, though the country has been mercifully spared national devastation except in the north. Furyondy’s ancient past, however, is particularly bloody and ancient undead are a constant source of rural folklore. The Yaheetes and Ur-Flan give rise to the vast majority of these tales as they have been handed down. Proof of actual examples is harder to come by, however.
Game animals are protected by law. Deer, elk, moose and other even toed ungulates of this sort are favored sport. Most prized are those rare survivals from Furyondy’s glacial past, megaceros, cranioceras, synthetoceras and merycodus. Boar and fox are also prized but may be killed if interfering with agricultural pursuits. The meat or hide, however, belongs to the local lord in such case. Ducks, wild geese, grouse, and other suitable sport for falconry, are also protected. Rabbit and hare are the only common sport animals that are not protected by law for the lord’s hunting pleasure.
Of livestock, every sort is raised. Cattle. Hogs. Chickens. Sheep. Note should also be made of horses. Although not livestock, in a land of knighthood, they are a passion. Among commoners, local horse races are also much commented upon.
Flora and Foodstuffs
The Gold Country and southern Willip are virtual flower gardens. Every type of wild and cultivated flower seems to thrive here. In spring and summer the riots of color are breathtaking. Roses are particularly prevalent but tulips, iris and all manner of lilies are common. Orchids are not native to Furyondy but have been imported by wealthier southern merchants and nobles. Something of an affectation, they are also a status symbol if one can grow them successfully in a hothouse type setting.
Throughout Furyondy berries of every sort are a common part of the diet. Few are actually cultivated but more grow wild in thickets near wetlands streams, creeks and rivers. Berry picking is a common summer and fall recreational activity, although a lookout for bears with similar ideas must be maintained.
Of grains, every sort is grown somewhere. Wheat, barley, oats and rye are most commonly grown for meal. If to be fermented, hops is also commonly grown. Corn is less common and is considered a Flan food, more suitable for animal feed. In rural areas, however, everything goes into the pot and wild corn dishes are a rural delicacy for those who would care to try them. Rice is not found in abundance, except the wild variety which is harvested mainly by rural peoples. Furyondy does not have a climate suitable for the large scale cultivation of rice. The rarest grain is the soybean, known to be grown in the Domain of Greyhawk after being imported from parts unknown.
Vegetables of every sort are also grown in Furyondy. Every rural house, and many urban dwellings, maintain a vegetable plot. Pole beans, potatoes, yams, onions, carrots, lettuce, squashes and cucumber are common. Tomatoes are another import from Greyhawk and have not caught on with most Furyondians as of yet.
Mellons of every almost every variety are also commonly grown.
Almost all types of fruit and nut trees do well in some part of Furyondy. Next to a vegetable garden it is most common for rural families to shade their cottages with a fruit or nut tree, if at all possible. Apples and cherries, walnuts and hickory nuts are most common. Citrus fruits are not grown but are a greatly prized import from Keoland.
Of course, grapes, whether for making fine wines or simple potables, are a Furyondian byword.
In the forests, both coniferous and deciduous trees abound, with more of the former to the north and more of the later in the middle, eastern and southern ranges. Roanwoods are found only in the verge of the Vesve and as one approaches Highfolk. Ipps are similarly rare. Galda, Usk and Yarpick are uncommon, found mostly in the most rural of areas. Of note, northeastern Furyondy north of Willip to the confluence of the Crystal and Veng Rivers is mostly treeless. Centuries of logging for ship building have entirely depleted what native forest stands existed in this predominately praire landscape. Erosion is a constant problem and there is a preliminary effort to replant forest stands as windbreaks to help halt erosion as much as anything else.
Special note should be made that timber or lumber sufficient for Furyondy’s building, and especially shipbuilding, is not found in abundance. Accordingly, Furyondy has very strict timber laws. Even so, Furyondy imports substantial timber each year from Veluna, Dyvers, Highfolk and even Perranland.
Of all of nature’s abundance, Furyondy is least blessed with mineral resources. Gold is found in more than sufficient supply for the Kingdom’s needs. Furyondy is not a poor country. Beyond gold, however, Furyondy is mineral poor. Substantial exports of foodstuffs and manufactures must pay for necessary silver, copper and platinum imports as well as gems for the adornment of the upper and noble classes, in addition to the timber already mentioned. Furyondy’s gold reserves are not, however, sufficient for the country to simply purchase that which they might need or desire.
Iron, tin and zinc are present in sufficient quantity to see to the kingdom’s basic needs but imports may be necessary in some years. Weapons manufacture is not a Furyondian speciality, as resources are not to be had in sufficient quality, as well as quantity. Furyondy imports weapons from Veluna, Highfolk, Dyvers, Greyhawk and most especially Perranland. Most weapons of quality found in Furyondy are of Perrenlander manufacture. "
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