03 · Flora and fauna
The Mûmakan area is one which holds a great variety of environments within a relatively small area: treeless plains, sandy coasts, humid jungles, hilly vales, and cool forests similar to those found much farther north. As can be imagined, to describe all of these ecosystems in detail could consume entire volumes. With this in mind, following is a brief discussion of each of the various environments and the typical flora and fauna that can be found there.
The shores of the land are for the most part sandy beach, except for the southern coast of the Mûmakan peninsula itself, which is rather rocky, and rises to sheer cliffs of up to 300’ in certain areas. This region is honeycombed with cliffside caves and grottoes, remnants of ancient volcanic flows. Wild grassy areas prevail as one moves inland, but on occasion the rampant foliage of the jungle runs fairly close to the beach edge. More often however, there are merely scattered palms, pines, and other hardy scrublike types of vegetation. Sharks and other large predatory fish are extremely rare in the bay and coastal areas, although they may be encountered beyond the ten-mile point. Fish on the other hand, are plentiful and harvested by Hathor and Koronande. Oysters and clams are cultivated in the shallows, including (by Hathor) the rare Vessino Clam, whose meat is the source of a healing balm (see healing chart, sec. 8.5). Unique to the Mûmakan is the Eris Squid, a small animal (growing to perhaps 1’ in length) whose inky defensive excretion is reputed to have magical camouflaging properties.
Covering more land in the Mûmakan than anything else are the vast, dim rainforests. Lining most of the shore areas, and extending far inland, they dominate the land and people. The Jungle itself harbors a variety of animal (and, of course, plant) life, and so deserves the greatest attention. There are actually four distinct “layers” of vegetation within the rainforest: the herbs and ferns, which exist most heavily at the fringes, are the bottom. Above them also most prevalent at the edges of the jungle, are young trees not fully grown. Forming the jungle “canopy” are the vast majority of large trees 100 – 150 feet in height, with no branches until they reach a crown, and spread to meet their neighbors, forming an almost complete roof over the jungle floor, and thus inhibiting the growth of sunlight-dependent vegetation below. Above all rise the great “Lurakil”, the lord trees of the rain–
Forest, growing to 200 feet, and occasionally even higher. The crowns of these trees spread above the unbroken roof of the forest canopy. It is in the Luraks that the Elves and Kirani choose to build their elaborate arboreal homes. Within this framework are a myriad of floral types: strangler vines which grow tendrils to the ground, then establish their own root systems, gradually wrap around the host tree and strangle it. Other climbing vines do not harm their support, but merely use it to get closer to the precious sunlight. Thickets of mangrove trees and bamboo thrive at the forest edge, especially along rivers. It is important to keep in mind that, once one has fought his way through the dense underbrush at the edge of the rainforest there are few obstacles to the traveler: young trees and other undergrowth cannot survive in the dim light, and dead material is swiftly decomposed by the many fungi and lichens which grow on the forest floor. The deep jungle is a misty cathedral pillared with slender, buttressed trunks of great trees, their high branches interlacing into a translucent, shimmering vaulted ceiling. Within this awe inspiring setting exist an infinite variety of animal and insect types, some harmless, others not so. Among the most prevalent and obvious of the rainforest inhabitants are the brightly plumaged birds who make their homes in the trees. They are usually quiet during the day, but break out in a cacophony of cries at sunset. Snakes are common, mostly constrictors, growing to twenty-five feet in length, and lying in wait in shallow water or in tree branches until an unsuspecting victim draws too near, at which time they are able to strike and envelope with amazing speed for their bulk. Small mammals are abundant, including squirrel-like creatures with flaps of skin between their limbs which allow them to glide from tree to tree. Leopards and ocelots, kings of the jungle predators, are about but rarely in the human-inhabited areas. Many amphibious animals exist, especially frogs — and of note, the tree frog of Umak, whose skin exudes a potent contact poison. Leeches are everywhere, and will attach themselves to the unprotected feet and lower legs of an unsuspecting traveler.
The plains of the Mûmakan are barren by comparison to the jungles, but still harbor several plant and animal types. Most prominent of these are the Mûmakil themselves: giant elephants, either wild in herds or domesticated by the Haradrim and used as beasts of burden for their nomadic tribes, the Mûmakil are fearsome beasts, and nearly unstoppable when frightened or angered. Thus do they make excellent war machines, almost impossible to kill unless struck in the eye. They also serve as mobile platforms for parapets, battlements, and acts as formidable living battering rams. These beasts live near the forest edge and spend a good deal of time by ponds and streams, bathing themselves. Also on the plains graze gazelles and wild horses, staples of the Mûmakani diet as well as food for the leopards, lions and cheetahs who, incidentally, occasionally make a Haradrim part of their dining fare, although these predators are relatively scarce and never attack large groups of men. Plantlife is for the most part limited to endless grassy plains, broken by an occasional cluster of stunted trees or undergrowth. There are scattered wild grains, nuts and edible plants, which the Haradrim harvest as they travel across the lands.
The hilly regions have more than the plains in the way of plant and animal life, partly because of the slightly cooler air and more evident water supply. This is true even in the low hills running as spines down the peninsulas in the Mûmakan; but the much cooler areas (where it is known to even snow on occasion) are limited to higher vales and the more northerly districts where deciduous trees begin to grow in numbers. Wild animal life here is limited to small rodents and an occasional deer or small bear, the latter two also usually only in the more northern areas. Plantlife is more healthy and abundant, including smaller versions of many of the jungle trees, as well as most of the medicinal herbs native to the area. Short grasses dominate uncultivated lands here, and in Hathor the domesticated sheep make full use of it as food. Fields of corn and cotton are common in the south, while wheat seems only to grow well in Dûshera and the higher elevations. The horse is the usual beast of burden and method of transportation, ranging from scruffy ponies in the North to huge war horses on the plains (when Mûmakil aren’t used), to the graceful mounts used by the Hathorians and Elves.
The swamp of Geshaan is similar to the rainforest, but out of control. The ground is uncertain, and often submerged under scummy water up to two or three feet. There are more breaks in the ‘canopy’ because of the unstable floor, and so more fallen trees. Huge vines and overgrown underbrush make passage almost impossible at times. In addition to this there are snakes, alligators, huge poisonous lizards, and large insects, many carrying diseases.
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