Welcome to AwShux and this design diary for Jackals: The Fall of the Children of Bronze (or Fall for short). Osprey Games are previewing an excerpt from Fall, a grand campaign designed for Jackals which covers nine years and 14 adventures in the Land of Risings, and they asked me to add a behind the scenes look at the book. So, I am going to talk to you about trees.
The Zaharets is an area analogous to the Ancient Near East, so trees are important. In addition to providing shelter and rest, they are a symbol throughout the ANE cultures of the axis mundi, the cosmic axis. They bridge heaven and earth, mediating and supporting the world. And in Fall, they tell us a bit about the two poles of the world – order and chaos.
Order is represented by the Shalla tree, a long leafy tree that the Luathi claim Alwain gifted to all of humanity in the days before the separations of the peoples. It represents order, Law, and the way the world is supposed to work. When humanity is actively engaged in pushing chaos back and establishing order, the Shalla tree flourishes. When the takan of Barak Barad ruled, these trees withered and died. The player characters in Jackals are the embodiment of this symbol of the Shalla tree. They are the ones who push back chaos to establish order. And so, they are opposed by the Ironbound tree.
The Ironbound Tree was the symbol of Mouadah in the east and is burned into the minds of the Luathi people as a symbol of chaos, domination, and tyranny. Its best description is found in the Futheniad:
Behind the onyx throne, there rose a dark and mighty tree,
Stripped of leaf and rendered bare, yet twisted and alive.
Its limbs were bound with blackest iron, which dug into its flesh –
Alsipur cried out, “My lord, it bleeds!”, for surely it did weep.
The Ironbound Tree represents the ever-present darkness lurking on the edges of civilization, waiting for one misstep to replant itself and consume all that humanity works towards. In Fall, the takan are the main representation of the Ironbound Tree, but you will find others – human and otherwise – who represent the machinations of the Ironbound Tree.
To learn more about these trees, and the characters that represent them in the Zaharets, you can read The Fall of the Children of Bronze. Across its nine years’ worth of adventures it deals with the themes of family, chaos vs law, uncovering the knowledge of the past, and war. It is an epic journey that will leave the face of the Zaharets changed for years to come.
You can read the excerpt from Jackals: The Fall of the Children of Bronze here.