Ashen Plains

Along the banks of the desert river, where the Ramze-Ka becomes the lands around the Bay of Corsairs, lies a savannah where fire is not the enemy of life, but has become integral to its flourishing.

Most every year, wildfire races through the scattered trees, prickly shrubs and golden grasses of the Ashen Plains. In fact, on occasions when the tinder-dry undergrowth is not ignited by lightning or a careless traveller, it is as detrimental to the terrain as a drought is to the Great Basin. The plant-life of the Ashen Plains has adapted to this burn off: the trees are hardy eucalyptuses and ironbarks that shed their lower branches, have hardened trunks to resist the flames, and generate fragrant oils that ignite easily but burn at a low temperature, and many of the grasses and shrubs have bulbs buried deep below the earth. A great many types of vegetation thrive amidst the frequent blazes: their seeds do no germinate unless exposed to heat to melt the gum that holds them in their pods, or cracks their casing. The fire seasons protect the ecosystem of the Ashen Plains from invading species of plants, and return carbon to the soil, giving it the rich black fertility from whence the region takes its name. The great plumes of smoke seed clouds, bringing rains to refresh the earth after the fires pass.

The fauna of the savannah has embraced the cycle of burning and renewal, too. As creatures flee the wildfires, they are picked off by predatory flying firefoxes, large bats which do not need to see through the haze but rely on sound. After a wave of flames has passed, insects and animals emerge, their eggs having been incubated by the intense heat. Fire beetles, ranging from the size of a fingernail to larger than a horse crawl out of the ash to feast on fresh green buds that emerge from charred bark. Salamanders as big as a finger or longer than an elf is tall thrive on the heat and emerge from their buried nests to feed on the buzzing, bustling plenty of the regeneration cycle.

Here and there in the Ashen Plains there are circles of menhirs, standing stones coated in soot and with distinctive runes etched into them. These monoliths suggest that there was once a small but significant dryad community in the savannah, but they long ago fled or perished. What they have to do with the unique adaptation of the Ashen Plains to its fire regime remains a mystery.