This tree-like bush is short and stout, standing 6 feet high, with a 2 foot thick trunk. Its leaves are round and yellowish with serrated margins, turning bright red in the autumn. The Allfruit is widely cultivated by Man-kin Halflings for its delicious, five-lobed fruit, the outer skin of which is striped yellow, purple, blue, and red. The intensely sweet pulp inside tastes like a mixture of apples, lemons, raisins, and cherries, and is a beloved pie filling. Its showy, pink and white flowers are also woven into floral crowns worn by young Man-kin women in the spring.
Fool Hares are notably fond of ripe Allfruit, causing no end of headaches for orchard owners. Thefts are such a problem that there are ongoing contests in many Man-kin communities to see who can build the best trap for the annoying creatures.
The Allfruit tree is native the Ultimate West, but has been introduced to the East as well. It requires direct sunlight, but does not do well in conditions of extreme heat, cold, or dryness.
The best-known of all Halfling songs in the Ultimate West is “Under the Allfruit Tree”, the bittersweet tale of a Halfling maid who defies her disapproving family and pledges her love to an adventurer in the shade of an Allfruit, only to have him be slain the next day fighting off a gang of Goblin raiders. After she gives birth to their baby, she takes the child every day thereafter to that same Allfruit Tree, where she sings him a song about how courageous his father was.
This strange conifer grows up to 50 feet tall, with a peculiar, wide trunk distinguished by its coffin-like hollow that is usually large enough for a full-grown human to stand inside. The bark is grayish black, and the undersides of the leaves are dull neutral gray, further contributing to the tree’s ominous appearance. Because their empty hollows might otherwise be used as hiding places by bandits and robbers, it is common for Coffin Pines that are left standing to have their trunks converted into funerary shrines – complete with a statue of the memorialized person.
Before the Reign of the Monsters, Coffin Pines were sometimes actually used to inter the dead. The corpse was placed in the hollow, which was then sealed up with wattle and daub. A crude image of the person inside would then be painted on the surface. Some of these Coffin Pine tombs still remain intact, but all are said to be haunted by angry Wraiths.
The needles of Coffin Pine are a potent medicine against intestinal worms, if brewed into a tea.
Dwarf Bread is a lichen used both directly as a staple food by many Dwarven communities, and also as livestock feed. A colony of it somewhat resembles a mass of thick lettuce leaves, gray-violet in color. It grows naturally on bare rock, surviving well above the tree line. Terraced fields of Dwarf Bread – cultivated on stones by Dwarf-kin Halflings – are found throughout the mountainous regions of Panzoasia. Dwarf Bread tastes somewhat like toasted rye when raw, becoming sweeter when cooked (typically as a porridge). Cooked Dwarf Bread can also be fermented and distilled into a spirit resembling whiskey. Among everybody other than Dwarves and Dwarf-kin, however, the lichen has a reputation for causing vivid nightmares of being turned to stone.
This short, stout deciduous tree (typically 12 feet high with a 3 foot diameter trunk) has shaggy gray bark, and heart-shaped leaves that are purplish in color. It is prized for its unique wood, which glitters like crushed mica. Typically, Glistenwood is used for statues, fine furniture, chests, and decorative accents (as it is also carves well). The wood retains its glittering quality even when stained dark colors. Glistenwood prefers to grow near waterways, and on the edge of swamps.
Wounds inflicted by the wood sting terribly, and take twice as long to heal naturally. Those who work with it must take special precautions against being stuck by splinters.
Objects and furniture made of Glistenwood are worth twice their normal values. Elves and Gnomes especially love things made from it. Dwarves aligned with the powers of Destiny (Law) have a peculiar distaste for Glistenwood, however, often going so far as to destroy objects made from it for being somehow “indecently indulgent”. Conversely, those few Dwarves who are members of the “Free Brethren” (Chaotic, but not Evil) will deliberately carry small Glistenwood carvings.
This strange, tree-like fungus often occurs in forest-like colonies underground. In appearance it closely resembles a small white tree about 8 feet high – but instead of leaves its branches end in thick, disk-like pods filled with a blue-green phosphorescent jelly. A complete Gloamtree emits light equal to a torch, while a broken branch will continue to emit light equal to a candle for a week. Gloamtrees are not fixed in their locations, and their apparent roots actually enable them to move in search of nutrients (albeit very slowly). The phosphorescent jelly can also be removed from its pod, and if dissolved in alcohol will continue to shine for as long as a month. Unfortunately, all parts of the Gloamtree are extremely toxic – if eaten the consumer must immediately Save versus Poison or suffer 1d6 points of damage, and must Save again every Round thereafter, or take an additional 1d6 points of damage. A successful Save ends all further loss of Hit Points.
A branch of Gloamtree Fungus sells for 10gp outside the Underworld, if fresh. A glass globe filled with fixed Gloamtree jelly(enough to illuminate a 15’ radius with blue-green light) sells for 50 gp, and a refill of jelly costs 40 gp. Gloamtree Fungus (and Gloamtree jelly) can generally only be obtained from Dwarven merchants, who control the supply to surface-dwelling folk.
These giant mushrooms have woody stalks that are often hollowed out and used as temporary homes by forest-dwelling Elf-kin Halflings. In addition to providing housing, the cap of the Homestead Mushroom is delicious fried, or boiled in a stew. Even the woody stalk can be eaten if first soaked and pounded to soften it. In fact, it is usual for an Elf-kin family to actually eat the mushroom as they inhabit it!
A mature Homestead Mushroom stands 8 feet tall and just as wide. It has a white trunk, and a yellow, orange, or red cap. The mushrooms appear in the spring, usually beneath or near Zoswood trees (See “Zoswood” below), and naturally endure until Autumn (unless completely eaten). Those Elk-kin who inhabit Homestead Mushrooms in the warmer weather will often spend the winter living on the lower level of a hollowed-out Zoswood nearby.
Sword Lacquer Tree
This gnarled and bulbous tree is prized for its sap, which can be prepared into a lacquer that dries nearly as hard as bronze. The substance can also used to create armor, or even edged weapons. The sap is mostly collected by certain Elf-kin Halflings, who also create the highest quality Sword Lacquer objects. The tree is deciduous, and also noted for its small leaves, growing in rosette clusters that resemble pom-poms. Sword Lacquer trees are most common in the Ultimate East, but some can also be found in the Ultimate South and West.
Weapons made of Sword Lacquer are a quarter the weight of their metal equivalents, but cost double the normal amount. Since Sword Lacquer is not quite as hard as actual steel, however, the user suffers a -1 to hit if the weapon is edged, or a -1 on damage if the weapon is blunt (with a minimum of 1 point of damage on a successful hit). On the upside, Sword Lacquer weapons (and armor) are immune to attack from Rust Monsters, and creatures such as Black Puddings are actually repulsed by their taste.
A complete suit of Sword Lacquer Plate Armor is AC 4 [or 15], but weighs just 12 pounds (120 coins) if sized for a human. It costs 100gp. Such suits are more common in the Ultimate East and South, but are not unknown elsewhere in Panzoasia.
A Sword Lacquer Breastplate weighs grants AC 7 [or 12] and weighs only a pound (10 coins). It costs 40gp. Sword Lacquer Breastplates are especially prized by Magic Users, since they are so light and easy to wear that they do not interfere with spellcasting.
The evergreen Zoswood has a central place in the culture of Western Elves (whose name for it is “Beharbre”). This massive and hardy tree often grows to over 300 feet in height, with a straight trunk up to 60 feet in diameter. About half the height of typical tree is trunk, and atop it grows a cloud-like canopy of twisting branches that end in seven-lobed, palmate leaves. Zoswood does not burn or rot (although its leaves will), and the living tree seems to be immune to almost every disease. Since it wood is almost as hard as stone, actually felling a Zoswood is arduous in the extreme. For all those reasons, hollowed out Zoswood trees became the primary refuges of Western Elves throughout the Reign of the Monsters. A single tree could easily house up to thirty Elves (and /or Elf-kin Halflings) – and up to a hundred could take refuge inside one in extreme emergencies.
Besides its durable wood and tolerance for being inhabited, the Zoswood has a number of other unique characteristics. In the spring it erupts in enormous, red and pink flowers that eventually give way to spiny fruit with chestnut-like seeds that are both delicious and extremely nourishing. There are several species of giant insect endemic to Zoswood forests, and even ordinary bugs that consume the sap or green leaves of the tree can grow to gigantic proportions – and acquire intelligence equal to that of a dog or horse. The enormous Gilout Moths from which Western Elves obtain their silk were bred from slightly smaller ancestors that live only on Zoswoods. Likewise, the Elven Riding Cicada is a domesticated and specially bred form of the wild Zoswood Cicada, which naturally grows to six feet in length.
The tallest Zoswoods are visited by the sky-dwelling Saganic Sylphs, and host the markets where Cloud Silver is traded for incense and scented oils. The area directly below a Zoswood is in perpetual shade, but is often populated by the similarly enormous Homestead Mushroom.
Objects made of Zoswood are extremely rare, and worth 10 times their normal value. Zoswood furniture is especially prized by Dwarves, since it will not rot from exposure to damp conditions underground. A club made of Zoswood functions exactly like a steel mace in almost every respect. Zoswood worked into a suit of plates is equivalent to Plate Mail (AC 3 [or 14]) – but at half the weight. Unfortunately, the secret to properly working Zoswood is known only to Elves – and apparently, no member of any other People has ever been able to master it. Naturally, the various Elven Communes strictly control the supply of Zoswood.
Inhabited Zoswoods: Beharbre Refuges and Communes
The original type of Beharbre Refuge created during the Reign of the Monsters consisted of a mature tree, with its heartwood hollowed out to a diameter of 20’. The removed wood was used (among other things) to construct an central spiral staircase linking up to 20 interior floors. The entrance to the tree was a carefully constructed secret door indistinguishable from the trunk. Ventilation and light shafts were bored to the exterior of every floor, the aperture of each barred with viridantine and screened with Gilout silk painted to exactly resemble the tree’s bark. Each floor had a fireplace, the flues of which emptied into a single chimney cleverly constructed like a branch of the tree. Smoke was conducted above the tree’s thick canopy, and could remain unnoticed by all but the most observant viewers below. At night, interior light was provided either by phosphorescent fungi, or by globes of magically created Continual Light.
Modern Beharbre Communes inhabited by forest-dwelling Elves follow the same general plan of a central spiral staircase vertically linking many interior floors. Nowadays, however, the main entrance will be obvious and ornamented, with carved window frames marking the apertures of the ventilation and light shafts along the tree’s trunk. The Elven occupants (each of which is considered a co-owner of the Commune) often change their sleeping arrangements from floor to floor as they form temporary romantic partnerships (couples, triads, quads, etc.). Any children born inside the Commune are considered the children of all the inhabitants, and may spend as little as one day a week on the same floor as their birth mother – or father, if his identity is certain. It is also common for the lower floors of a Beharbre Commune to inhabited by Elf-kin Halflings. The upper branches, on the other hand, will be fitted with platforms where the community’s Riding Cicadas are hitched, and Gilout caterpillars are raised for silk. If it is not filled with Homestead Mushrooms, the area around the base of the Zoswood will often be cultivated with various other kinds of ornamental (and useful) fungi. Juvenile Riding Cicadas will often be living below the surface, feeding from the Zoswood’s roots, and waiting to emerge in the summer. Generally, the Commune’s herd of riding deer (or elk) will be kept in a glade nearby, rather than within the shade of the tree.
Doubtless, the historical experience of living inside Zoswood trees is at least one reason that city-dwelling Elves of the Ultimate West show such a preference for inhabiting high towers.
(Yes, Zoswood is my version of the old “Elves-in-a-tree” trope, with man-sized cicadas.)