Vuya Shadowy Forest has always been a place of intrigue and curiosity. Sitting towards the south, it's covered in shadows and filled with trees of black bark. Outsiders who’ve never taken a step past its dark trees have always been curious about what dwells within. Many of the inhabitants within the forest, stretching far back into history, have hardly ever made contact with the outside world. They preferred the solitude of the forest compared to the bustling of cities and other tribes. There was no law but what they made. The few outsiders that tried their luck in the forest quickly realized that this wasn’t a place for the weak of heart or those with fleeting curiosity.
Various dangerous animals inhabited the forest. Animals with paralyzing claws, ferocious growls, and the ability to to stalk their prey from the shadows. Carnivorous, poisonous, and toxic plants covered nearly every level of the forest. And then the zu’aan that dwelled within, that had inhabited the forest for generations. Most of them were savage and bloodthirsty after spending so long in isolation. They would attack the curious zu’aan, kidnapping and imprisoning those that they didn’t kill. They played with them like they were children’s toys. There were very few who were able to escape. The one who founded Itori City came from a long line of natives of the forest.
Nearly four generations ago, his ancestors left the forest in search of something new and to escape the savagery of the tribe they had been a part of. When the kin’toni came, it took a while of running before he remembered the tales of the home of his ancestors. After remembering, the founding zu’aan knew exactly where to go. Stories and teachings of the ways of the forest had long been passed down in his family. There had always been talk of going back to the forest, though that talk was always with a bit of trepidation. They knew that the zu’aan within the forest wouldn’t be as welcoming to deserters, even after so many years passed. So, the family made sure to train themselves, something that they believed would come in handy one day.
Knowing a bit of what to expect, he headed to the forest, gathering zu’aan on the way. He trained them, prepared them to face what was to come. As expected, there was resistance. A tribe unknown to the outside world occupied most of the forest. They were as bloodthirsty and violent as the rumors portrayed them to be. The fighting was tough and lasted for almost a year, but eventually they were able to wipe out every trace of this tribe. But the tribe wasn’t the only thing they had to fight. While zu’aan did occupy most of the forest, the animals were the true owners. Fierce, aggressive, and dangerous, they dominated the region. Add that to the fact that most of the forest was covered in shadows, settling was extremely difficult.
They persevered, creating Itori City, a place they were prepared to defend.
The Vuya Shadowy Forest is a dense forest that spans roughly 2,980 square kilometers. The largest population of trees have black bark and stretch up almost two hundred feet. Its thick leaves block the sun from touching most of the forest floor. This is where it got its name. The leaves are thin around its edges and there are small gaps throughout the foliage, so the sun isn’t completely blocked out. There are two unique zones within the forest: light zones and dark zones. Light zones are certain areas throughout the forest where light touches the ground. Huge gaps in the leaves allow large areas to be in the sunlight. Some of these zones are several feet wide. There are not many of these spots in the forest, but they can cover a wide area.
There are also areas called dark zones scattered around. These areas are completely dark, no light of any kind penetrates them. These areas are usually devoid of any kind of life as well. They appear in areas where the leaves are layered on top of each other, blocking the gaps and thin edges. Some of these areas can stretch for a couple of miles and are extremely dangerous. It’s hard to navigate through them, even with fire for light, as the fire only allows about two feet of vision in front of you. It is also easy to catch frostbite, especially in the winter. It has a moderately cold climate, thanks to the thick shadows. In the summer, temperatures may rise to the high sixties, low seventies in the day.
At night, it can drop to the lower fifties. Winter brings about the harshest weather. Daytime temperatures drop to nearly twenty degrees and to below zero at night. In light zones, the temperature can rise to almost eighty degrees as there is nothing to block the sun. Dark zones are extremely cold, usually staying below zero in the winter and just above zero in the summer. Due to the low temperatures, snow can fall at any given time, even during the summer. Rainfall is also a common occurrence, but it will turn to snow nearly half of the time. Bioluminescence is a natural phenomenon that has occurred due to how dark the forest is. As there is only a small amount of sunlight that penetrates the thick foliage of the trees, this phenomenon is one source of light for the zu’aan.
There are species of both plants and animals that have naturally developed the trait. There are a few caves that lead underground spread around the forest, all of which are connected by tunnels. These caves are the only place that has constant light thanks to bioluminescence. Glowing flowers, crystals, and water fill the caves. Towards the northwest of the forest lies a giant waterfall. Thanks to some of the organisms clinging to the rocks and even some of the fish, there is a mix of light blue and purple glow to the water.
Though the forest doesn’t get much sunlight, the plant life has evolved to be able to grow in the darkness. Trees, flowers, and moss have the largest populations. The majority of plants that grow here are native, though a few may be found in other regions with dark areas. Many of them have bioluminescent traits, glowing brightly beneath the dark shadows. Aenite, or shadow trees, are the oldest species of plant in the forest and they make up almost ninety percent of trees in the forest. They stretch up nearly two hundred feet and have trunks of three to five feet in diameter at the base. Their rough bark is completely black and their leaves are a blend of silver and black. The rounded triangle shaped leaves are huge, nearly five feet in length and three feet in width.
They are also thick, save for about an inch or two around their edges, that are able to block out the sun. Aenite are extremely strong and durable. Even with advanced technology, they were hard to cut down. They stay covered in leaves all year long, despite the change in seasons. Their roots stick out above ground. Evodia, a moss with bioluminescence, usually cling to these trees. Evodia is a blue glowing moss, native to this forest, that can be found on aenite trees or clinging to the rocks of the waterfall. It thrives in wet and cold environments and grows in a great abundance. The stringy moss can cover almost the entire base of a tree, growing in large clumps. It hangs on lifted roots, pretty much completely covering them.
Evodia is completely edible in any form. Most prefer to eat it raw, right off the tree. Oclard is a large blue flower native to Vuya. It can easily grow up to five feet. The base of its thick, black stem stretches up about two feet before splintering off into eight stems. Its black leaves are slender and pointed with serrated edges. They have a thin silver line running down their center. The stretched, tear shaped petals form a stellate shape. Around five flowers in separate stalks can grow on each stem. They can be found growing around the edge of light zones. Isniper is an aquatic flower that can be found growing in the caves. It grows to about two feet tall on ledges just by the water.
Its white roots can be seen clinging to the walls and floors of the cave. Some reach into the water. Its stem is thick, and the tiny, black leaves with white on the underside are broad and flat with rounded edges. Two giant flowers sit at the end of the stem. The flowers have glowing, purple petals. The flower head is made up of 36 petals that make up two layers. The lower layer is flat and the upper layer forms up into a bell shape. Within the bell are about a dozen white berries. Both the berries and the flower are edible.
The animals of Vuya Shadowy Forest can be aggressive and violent. There are very few docile species and nearly every one are carnivores. They’ve evolved to be able to survive in the shadowy darkness of the forest. Some have bioluminescent traits, some are blind but have their other senses heightened, and some can see in the dark. Cheridin are large, four legged mammals . They stand at a shoulder height of five feet, weigh up to one hundred and eighty pounds, and have two long tails about three feet long each. Their thick, short, coarse fur is pure black and their vertical slitted black pupils are surrounded by purple irises. They have retractable, silver colored claws and four large, retractable fangs on their mouths.
These fangs are about an inch longer than their other teeth. Cheridin are able to see in the dark. When this ability is added with their ability to blend into their surroundings, they make very proficient hunters. Their diets consist of mammals of all sizes. They will usually stalk their prey for several hours before attacking. Cheridin are usually found lazing around on thick tree branches or on top of caves. When it’s time to give birth, they will enter the caves and spend the next few months raising their young. Females can give birth to up to five cubs. After a few months, the cubs are taken to their first hunt. The weak, the one unable to get a successful kill, are often abandoned.
Oxboon are small fish with a bioluminescent glow. They live in both the waterfall and the underground cave water pools. They are a little over a foot in length and can weigh about ten pounds. Oxboon aren’t confined to one color. They come in blue, purple, yellow, and green. What identifies them, besides their glow, are their rounded scales and wispy, vertical tails. Their diet consists mainly of the algae that grows on the rocks within the waterfall and the caves. They will sometimes eat some of the smaller organisms within the water. Females can lay up to thirty eggs at a time. They usually lay their eggs in small crevices to protect them from predators. Yeom are medium-sized birds that are blind.
They live close to dark zones as the light can hurt their eyes. Their hearing is quite exceptional and their feathers are able to feel even the slightest changes or shifts in the air. They stand at about three feet in height and have a wingspan of five feet across. Their eyes are a milky blue and one of their identifiers. Their feathers are a mix of black and silver and their long beaks are completely black. They make their nests on the high branches of aenite trees, where females can lay up to three black colored eggs. Yeom hunt together with their young, sharing in the spoils, instead of bringing food to them. They mature fast and are able to chew up and digest their own food fairly quickly. Their diets consist of other birds and small mammals.