En’rodo Black Lake is a peculiar place, with an unnatural appearance. Accurate to its name, this lake appears to have black colored water. Now, it isn’t actually black. If one was to cup their hands in the water, it would be as clear as other lakes. The sand and rocks at the bottom of the lake, along with the plant and animal life surrounding it, is what makes it appear black. There is such a high concentration of black sediment at the bottom that the water can’t help but take on that appearance. This lake has always been black and has always been a source of bewilderment. An illusion. No one could understand how even the plant and animal life could be this color.
Many believed that there was no way this could be a natural phenomenon, that it had to be the result of zu’aan experimentation. Some even went as far as to believe that it was ancient, dark magic. Rumors of all kinds, some believable and some down right ridiculous, surround this place. Of course, most of these rumors were quelled after truly looking back through its history. They had no choice but to throw away their baseless and unsupported speculations. This lake, from the time of its creation until now, has always been this way. Throughout its history, several zu’aan settlements used the lake, despite the rumors. They discovered that it was an environment that supported the healthy and vibrant life within it.
A majority of these zu’aan were able to live in harmony with nature. But, there was a bit of hesitation from the fleeing zu’aan when it came to using the lake as their main source of water after establishing Toran City. Whispers of toxic waste and fear based superstitions of a cursed lake made them tread carefully. It also didn’t help with the numerous rumors that had been floating around the lake for thousands of years. If anything, actually seeing it for themselves caused them to be even more hesitant. Due to their hesitation, for the first few years after settling, the lake remained untouched by them. Instead, many of them tried to find other sources of water to use.
All the rivers they discovered fed into the lakes. While parts of those rivers were clear enough to almost see their bottoms, they still didn’t quite trust that they were safe to use. Any other sources they ran across were far too small to be sustainable. Eventually, they had no choice but to use the water. They had already settled here and they did not want to go back to constantly running away from the kin’toni. Luckily, after much trepidation, they discovered that neither the lake nor the rivers connected to it were toxic. This is not to say that everything was completely safe. Plants with high concentrations of toxins inhabited the lake, along with animals that are extremely venomous.
They were lucky to discover natural remedies within the lake to counteract the toxins and venom.
En’rodo Black Lake is a naturally made lake that spans nearly two hundred square kilometers and sits towards the southwest. It sits almost 1,100 feet in a depression of the forest that surrounds it and has a depth of nearly three hundred feet. Two large rivers feed down into the lake. These rivers have smaller branching off rivers that stretch a bit beyond the forest. Both of the large rivers drop down from small waterfalls around the middle of their stretch, before continuing towards the lake. The parts that are closer to the lake also appear to be black colored before fading away to its original, clear state. Despite its black appearance, the lake is not toxic or undrinkable.
It’s clean thanks to the natural purifying plants and low in salinity thanks to the rivers. Both plants and animals thrive here, soaking in and drinking straight from the lake. Over the decades, the lake has both increased and decreased in size. Rainfall and changing temperatures are just a few reasons for the changes. As precipitation increases, the lake expands. As hot temperatures evaporate the surface of the water, the size of the lake decreases. Natural occurrences like earthquakes and landslides aid in changing the lake’s shape as well. The climate is mostly moderate, but it can get hot in the summer. It can reach the upper eighties during the day in the summer and drop to the lower fifties at night.
In the winter, daytime temperatures rarely reach the upper forties while dropping far into the lower twenties at night. Winters can easily bring frost with it, freezing the surface of the lake. It usually stays frozen during the entire winter. The ice can get really thick in some parts, leaving the zu’aan to have to chisel into it so that they can fish and get water. There are areas of the lake where the ice is dangerously thin. The parts of the rivers close to the lake are also known to freeze over. It gets a bit warm towards the outer edges of the forest, as the environment begins to change. Both within the lake and in the forest surrounding it, navigation can be difficult and very dangerous.
It is hard to swim in the lake due to the strong currents that could easily pull a full grown zu’aan under its surface. When the lake freezes, the thin parts can easily break and drop a zu’aan down. The current and the extremely cold water make it hard to get back to the surface. The fact that there are no large rocks or small islands that can act as rest spots within the lake, make it dangerous to try to outright swim across due to how large it is. Some of the plants can trap zu’aan beneath the water and some of the animals will actually attack zu’aan. The forest inclines up away from the lake. Walking up the incline, through the foliage and loose dirt on the ground, is extremely taxing as well.
Plant life in En’rodo is different from normal lakes, but only in appearance. Despite the soil around the lake being black, it is actually really fertile and supports a large variety of plant life. The majority of plants here are black or varying shades of gray. Some of them are safe to eat, some are toxic, and some have no benefits at all. Enkian is an aquatic flower that only blooms during the heat of the summer. Narrow, black, round leaves sit below clusters of gray, funnel-shaped flowers whose petals flare out at the ends. They grow in large numbers in various spots around the edge of the lake. Thorns are formed in the center of the flower and small stinging hairs cover both the outside and the inside.
Trying to grab this flower will leave stinging welts that, if left untreated, will open and fester. There are no medicinal benefits nor is it safe to eat. Ternatium is a flower that grows at the base of escalla trees, trees with black bark that twists and has knots. Its black petals are papilionaceous shaped and grow on long stems that droop downward, close to the ground. Its petals drip with a toxic liquid that exits from the center of the flower and is kind of like acid. It doesn’t affect the soil as it has evolved to be able to handle the flower, but it does eat through the skin, muscles, and bones of animals that are unlucky enough to brush against it. The liquid aids the soil in soaking up the nutrients from the dead.
Ternatium fully blooms in the summer and is at its most toxic during the time. In the winter, it only partially blooms. Its toxic liquid isn’t produced during a partial bloom, so it is easier to harvest the petals. If the correct precautions are taken, the petals can be eaten. It is a lengthy and complicated process of detoxifying the flower. By eating ternatium petals, toxin resistance is increased. Escalla trees are the trees that grow closest to the edge of the lake. They grow twisted and warped up to nearly twelve feet. Everything from the bark to the roots are completely black. This is the only tree here that doesn’t grow leaves. Escalla trees also secrete a toxic liquid that aids in the growth of ternatium.
In return, the ternatium aids in providing nutrients for the escalla. Just touching this tree can lead to fevers and even death if enough of the liquid seeps into the skin. Ascine polypore are shelf mushrooms that grow mainly on nirin trees a bit deeper into the forest. Nirin trees have the largest population in the forest and are the tallest. The flat, peach colored top of ascine is spongy while the bottom has a white, gill-like appearance. Spores (seeds) are released from the gills, but they are not toxic or poisonous. The spores are released during the summer and are carried by the wind to expand their population. These mushrooms are one of the few fungi that grows here that is actually edible.
The animal population of En’rodo Blake Lake is plentiful. They inhabit both the lake and the forest. A majority of the animal population live within the forest, with only about thirty percent being aquatic. Only about thirty percent of the animal population are considered aquatic, the rest live within the forest. Gloros is a breed of amphibian only found here. Its smooth skin and protruding eyes, like much of the life on the lake, are black. There are dark yellow spots along its body, leaving its legs untouched, and focusing mainly around the eyes. It has poisonous skin glands all over that secretes a toxin when it tries to protect itself. This toxin is extremely fatal to zu’aan and to many animals that try to eat it.
They have a length of nearly eleven inches and can weigh up to five pounds. Even with their weight, their strong legs allow them to easily jump to heights of nearly four feet. Gloros frogs live close to the edge of the lake, laying their eggs on the surface during the summer. Their diets consist of any living thing small enough to fit in their mouths that cross their paths. That can be anything from small insects to small mammals and the occasional small bird. As they can survive both on land and in the water, it’s not uncommon to see their eyes and the tops of their bodies peeking out of the water. Ninpal are a small breed of mammal. These particular ones are called black ninpal and are only native to En’rodo.
Their fur is coarse and black with hints of gray towards the bottom, the tip of its tail is completely gray. With its tail, it has a length of almost thirty five inches and a shoulder height of about fourteen inches. They can weigh up to ten pounds. Ninpal have great senses, especially sight and hearing, making them excellent hunters. They make their dens deep in the forest usually by burrowing into the ground at the base of large rocks or wide trees. Sitting around the middle of the food chain, their diet consists mainly of small rodents or berries further into the forest as the majority of plants on the lake are toxic. Females can give birth to up to nearly eleven pups, so they have a pretty big population.
They mainly drink water from the rivers. Their main predator, other than zu’aan, is the yirver. Yirver’s are a rare breed of large mammal that resembles a feline that reside in naturally made dens within rock crevices. Their soft fur is a pure, uninterrupted silver from top to bottom. At the shoulders, they stand to nearly four feet, making them the second largest mammal in En’rodo. They are almost eight feet long, including their bushy tail which makes up over a foot of their length. These felines have a powerful bite that can easily crush bone, incredibly sharp retractable claws, and excellent sight and hearing, making them very proficient hunters. Their diet consists of small mammals like the ninpal, zu’aan, birds, and sometimes larger mammals that they take down together.
They hibernate during early winter before mating during late winter. They usually have a litter of around five to six.