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The Tortured Lands
By Jay Johnson
A rugged popular account of the northern lands, discovered in the Great Library of Phlan:
“Ten days ride north of the Varm is a barren and dead country called Lee-wai (land-in-pain or land-of-caused-pain) Further to the south this place is known as the Tortured Land. It is said to be an evil place, shunned by the Riders. They speak little of this land. But, yearly, during Ches, they make a trip into its heart. There, they go to praise the spirit of a glowing spring. This they have done for ages and so shall they do for years to come.”
The Tortured Lands is a broad expanse of relatively undocumented territory to the north of the Moonsea on the planet of Toril. While many parts of the Forgotten Realms have been examined in extreme detail - information about the Tortured Lands is scarce and the information that does exist is scattered throughout a number of obscure references. This article attempts to shed some light on the geography, climate, people and places of the Tortured Lands.
While many of the references in this article refer to products copyrighted by TSR, Wizards of the Coast, SSI and others, no contest of these copyrights is intended or should any be inferred by the referencing of this copyrighted information. This material is simply one fan’s effort to increase the enjoyment and playability of this portion of the Forgotten Realms.
Geography of the Tortured Lands
The Tortured Lands is an hourglass-shaped region located between the northern reaches of the Anaroch Desert and the Great Glacier. It is approximately 750 miles long, 274 miles wide at it narrowest (center) point, 513 miles wide at the northern portion and 379 miles wide in the southern portion. The total area of the Tortured Lands is over 215,000 square miles. It is a large territory and mostly uninhabited - at least by humans and demi-humans. It is, however, a vital and interesting area for adventure.
Portions of the southwestern and central Tortured Lands are boreal forests (also known as Taiga), meaning that they are cold weather, mostly coniferous forests (This would include both the northern portions of the Border Forest and the whole of the Frozen Forest). The extreme northern portions (north of the Sunrise Mountains) and the west central portions of the Tortured Lands (next to the Great Glacier) would be frozen tundra. The rest of the Tortured Lands would be considered a prairie. This prairie is, by no means, perfectly flat or level. Even in the central and south-central portions of the Tortured Lands, extensive areas are rolling or even hilly.
Even the flat regions of the Tortured Lands would include some patches of marshy lands called sloughs. Sloughs are low-lying areas of land where water naturally collects. It only takes a few years for a different sort of eco-system to develop around these sloughs. These low-lying areas become quite wet and marshy every spring While they may dry out during the most extreme summers (maybe once in every 10-15 years), they will almost always refill with autumn precipitation and freeze over each winter.
Climate of the Tortured Lands
The northern edge of the Tortured Lands is located at approximately 58 degrees north latitudes. The southern border between the Tortured Lands and the Ride is at roughly 46 degrees north latitude. The climate of the Tortured Lands would be strongly influenced by its mid-continental location, and the fact that it lies between a magically-drained desert (the Anaroch) and a magically-created glacier (the Great Glacier). Much of the central area of the Tortured Lands would also be sheltered from local weather patterns by the northern portion of the Turnback Mountains. These factors would certainly combine to have a significant effect on the weather patterns and climate of the region. The severe, quickly changing and unpredictable nature of the weather is (no doubt) one of the leading factors behind the naming of the region as the Tortured Lands.
While it would be impossible to find a completely comparable area here on earth (mostly due to the lack of magically created deserts and glaciers) there is at least one area that shares a number of the geographic characteristics with the Tortured Lands. That area is the Prairie Provinces of Canada.
Both territories are at similar latitudes. Both are also mid continent, and thus removed from the moderating effects of the oceans. Most uniquely, both territories are sheltered on their western sides by high mountain ranges. The Turnback Mountains and the Canadian Rockies force weather patterns to either detour to the north or south around them, or to rise and cool - dropping much of their moisture as rain or snow on the western slopes of the mountains, rather than on the lands to their east. It would follow that the two areas would share some of the same weather patterns.
In our world, the climate of the Canadian Prairie is one of extremes. Continental Arctic air masses push south in winter, dropping temperatures as low as the -56.7 degrees C (-70.1 degrees F). A few days later, a warm air mass can result in temperatures above the freezing mark. Snow may accumulate all winter or disappear in a January thaw. Among the most remarkable features of the prairie winters is the “chinook,” a warm, usually dry winter wind that affects much of southern Alberta. The chinook sweeps down from the Rocky Mountains and has been known to raise temperatures as much as 16 degrees C in a single day.
The effects of Climate on the Tortured Lands
The Tortured Land owes much of its natural diversity and richness to the influence of its climate. Variations in precipitation and temperature across the Tortured Lands would create broad bands of differing vegetation. Wildlife would also adapt to local conditions or migrate to more favorable habitats.
The weather would be moister in the lands adjacent to the Turnback Mountains (in the west) and to the southwestern extremes of the region (near the Border Forest). Likewise, the driest portions of the region would be the central and extreme northern portions. Moisture supplies and temperature influences the kind of plants that will grow and their productivity, which in turn, determine the predominant animal life of the region.
While it is easy to simply assume that since the Canadian Prairies and the Tortured Lands are located at similar latitudes, bound by similar mountain chains, and sheltered from the oceans, that they will have exactly the same weather patterns. However, I believe that this would be a bit simplistic. In fact, because of the unbalancing magical effects of both the Anarouch Desert and the Great Glacier, I would argue that the weather in the Tortured Lands will be even quicker to change and harsher on each end of the col and hot extremes. Using the actual weather patterns of the Canadian Prairie Provinces as a base, my estimations of the climate of the Tortured Lands look something like this:Month Ave. High Ave. Low Record High Record Low Hammer -12 C/10 F -22 C/-8 F 10 C/50 F -49 C/-58 F Alturiak -8 C/17 F -19 C/-3 F 12 C/54 F -50 C/-61 F Ches -1 C/30 F -12 C/10 F 23 C/74 F -43 C/-45 F Tarsakh 10 C/50 F -2 C/28 F 33 C/92 F -28 C/-19 F Mirtul 19 C/67 F 5 C/41 F 37 C/99 F -13 C/8 F Kythorn 23 C/74 F 10 C/50 F 40 C/104 F -3 C/26 F Flamerule 27 C/81 F 13 C/56 F 40 C/104 F 0 C/32 F Eleasis 26 C/79 F 11 C/52 F 38 C/101 F -3 C/26 F Eleint 19 C/67 F 6 C/43 F 35 C/95 F -11 C/12 F Marpenoth 12 C/54 F 0 C/32 F 32 C/90 F -25 C/-13 F Uktar 0 C/32 F -10 C/14 F 21 C/70 F -40 C/-40 F Nightal -8 C/17 F -18 C/-1 F 14 C/58 F -44 C/-47 F Month Days w/Rain Mthly Rain Days w/Snow Mthly Snow Hammer 0 days 0mm 11 days 186mm/7.3" Alturiak 0 days 0mm 10 days 155mm/6.1" Ches 1 day 1.4mm/.05" 8 days 165mm/6.4" Tarsakh 4 days 11.0mm/.43" 4 days 90mm/3.5" Mirtul 8 days 41.7mm/1.64" 1 day 20mm/.7" Kythorn 12 days 63.3mm/2.49" 0 days 0 Flamerule11 days 58.0mm/2.28" 0 days 0 Eleasis 9 days 36.0mm/1.41" 0 days 0 Eleint 9 days 30.2mm/1.18" 1 day 17mm/.6" Marpenoth 4 days 7.5mm/.37" 3 days 88mm/3.4" Uktar 1 day 2.2mm/.08" 8 days 137mm/5.3" Nightal 1 day .8mm/.007" 12 days 197mm/7.7"
While the weather is cold and harsh in the Tortured Lands, this area is not some sort of arctic wasteland. On average, the Tortured Lands would enjoy around 110 to 120 frost-free days each year. This is enough of a growing season for many plant species. Remember, in our real world, the Prairie Provinces (which have a similar frost-free season) are one of the major agricultural centers of Canada.
The arrival of spring brings an increase in precipitation, as warm air from the south clashes with the cooler northern air over the region. Precipitation reaches its peak during early Kythorn. Much of the summer precipitation falls as explosive and violent rain showers, often accompanied by gusty winds and hail. Occasionally, these sudden storms spawn tornadoes, lightning storms, wind sheer, and other hazardous weather.
Temperatures peak in late Flamerule. This, ombined with the diminishing rains provides ideal conditions for prairie grass and grains to ripen. In some years, the heat will become too great, drying out the soil, damaging crops, and increasing the risk of large-scale grass fires. Large-scale prairie fires are rare - occurring only once every 20-25 years.
Adventurers traveling in the Tortured Lands will notice that the days are much sunnier than in the lands to the south - especially the Moonsea lands. Bright sunshine and thin, wispy clouds are the norm for the Tortured Lands (again, this is very similar to the Canadian Prairie. The total sunshine at Regina, Saskatchewan exceeds 2,400 hours annually, which is far higher than can be found anywhere else on the continent at that latitude.) Days are quite long in the late spring, summer and early fall. The sky is very clear and usually a bright shade of blue. Some of the Ride Barbarians call these lands the “Tall Sky Country.”
There is relatively little fog across the Tortured Lands and average relative humidity in the summer is much lower than the average relative humidity anywhere in the Moonsea or Cold Lands area to the south and east. This makes for comfortable (low humidity index) summer temperatures - but for bitter, biting cold winter temperatures. Again, the weather in the Tortured Lands is one of extremes. Very gentile summer temperatures and winter cold snaps that cut like knives.
Another point in common almost anywhere you go in the Tortured Lands sweep of the Plains is the wind. It is often windy in the Tortured Lands. The winds vary seasonally from a generally northerly flow in Hammer, especially in the northern portions of the Tortured Lands (above the Sunrise Mountains, to a generally southerly flow in Flamerule, especially in the southern portion of the area - when in particular the wind flow is exceedingly strong.
The Tortured Lands are famous for violent storms and sudden weather changes. In late spring, these are classically associated with thunderstorms and can also result in tornadoes. The most violent storms commonly occur in the afternoon or early evening. Once a storm develops, it will ominously meander in a generally northeasterly path. In winter, the storms are associated with cold fronts sweeping south and overnight lowering temperatures by fully seventy degrees Fahrenheit.
To this list of common weather elements, one must also add precipitation - probably the most important of the lot. The precipitation that falls on the Tortured Lands Plains is well distributed for the growth of summer grasses and other plants used by the herds of the plains. About sixty percent of the annual rainfall occurs during Mirtul, Kythorn, and Flamerule. This large influx of moisture allows the grasses of the Tortured lands to grow rapidly in the late spring and early summer. Most years, heavy blankets of snow will protect those same grasses from frost damage for much of the winter.
Flora of the Tortured Lands
The prairies of the Tortured Lands are places of great beauty, where herds of roth’e roam and waving grasses and flowers added color, pattern and texture to the surroundings. The plants of the Tortured Lands are well-suited to their environment. Many have extensive root systems for absorbing moisture and nutrients from the soil during periods of low moisture.
Some plants, known as cool-season species, begin their growth early, taking advantage of the spring moisture before becoming dormant in the heat of the summer. With the advance of fall and cooler temperatures, these plants renew their growth and replenish their food reserves before the onset of winter. Other plants, called warm-season species, have adapted to the hot summers and low moisture levels by changing the way they produce food in their leaves and stems. Their unique metabolism allows them to grow during hot, dry weather without losing precious moisture.
In drier regions of the Tortured Lands (south of the Sunrise Mountains and in the rain shadow of the Turnback Mountains) fescue, wheatgrass and roth’e grass are predominant. While these grasses are shorter than the grasses of the central prairie (averaging only 6 to 8 inches tall), they are well suited for holding the soil in place and gathering as much moisture as possible - even in the driest of conditions. An adventurer digging up a typical roth’e grass plant would find that the six inches of grass she saw above ground actually capped a tangle of roots six feet long.
Roth’e Grass (on Earth, the plant is known as Buffalo Grass) is a low grass plant, commonly only 8 to 10 inches high. Individual blades of the grass may reach 10 to 12 inches in length, but they fall over and give the turf a shorter appearance. It grows best in area with lower moisture (15 to 30 inches annually), making it the primary ground cover in the rain-shadows of the eastern side of the Turnback Mountains. Roth’e Grass has curly leaves and the male plants will have 2 or 3 flag-like, one-sided spikes on a seedstalk that is 4 to 6 inches high.
Fescue is a deep-rooted, long-lived, sod-forming grass. Fescue is extremely drought resistant and will maintain itself under rather limited fertility conditions. Animals will readily graze tall fescue during Tarsakh, Mirtul, and early Kythorn (April, May and early June) and again in the fall, but show reluctance to graze it during the summer months of late Kythorn, Flamerule and Eleasis.
Some sages have called this plant bluestem wheatgrass because of its bluish-colored stems and leaves. It is another of the short-grass prairie plants. Typically, the erect stems of this plant will grow between 3 and 5 ft tall. The stems have a characteristic bluish or bluish-purple color at the base. The grass has a spike-like head, which can be 6 to 10 inches long. The seeds of this plant are very large and resemble oat seeds. Despite this, it is a grass rather than a grain plant.
Wheatgrass produces seeds in the spring and goes dormant in mid-summer. It can grow again in the fall if there is adequate moisture. This makes the grass very winter hardy and extremely drought tolerant. If the conditions are too dry for proper gemination, the seed will lie dormant in the soil until there is sufficient moisture for germination
The three different types of grasses that dominated the tall-grass prairie are Bluestem, Spirit Grass, and Cord Grass. While these are the primary grasses that make up the tall-grass prairie, a sage or botanist might catalog as many as 150 different species of grass on the prairies of the Tortured Lands, including prairie dropseed, porcupine grass, side oats grass, needle grass, etc.
Cord grass is the most common grass in the moister area of the central Tortured Lands. This grass can grow up to ten feet tall. It’s average height is usually around 6 or 7 feet tall.Prairie Cord grass forms into beautiful tall stands of lush leaves. The blades are smooth if rubbed upward, but if rubbed downward, tiny razor-like “teeth” can cause lacerations of bare skin.The plant is also known as "rip gut" because of these finely serrated leaves.The blades of grass can cut the unwary like the sharpest of knives.
The blades of Cord Grass rustle and wave with the direction of the wind. Every little breeze is reflected in the movement of the grass.This reminds many adventurers of the rise and fall of ocean waves, and is also expressed by the Ride Barbarians name for these plants, which is “ton-lesha,” meaning “water of green.”
The Barbarians of the Ride have discovered that they can twist and bundle the grasses (and tie the bundles with additional strands of grass) to make logs for burning. These “grass logs” are used in campfires and cooking fires by the Ride clans that make an annual migration into the Tortured Lands.
Bluestem grass grows in patches, and is found primarily on the tall-grass prairie. The average flowering stalk grows to be about 3-6 feet but on occasion the stalks grow up to 9 feet tall. Parts of the stems are usually bluish or purplish in color. After the frost the leaves turn reddish bronze color.
This grass has a long stem, which can grow up to 4 to 6 feet tall.Spirit Grass is a warm season grass closely associated with Bluestem. This grass is actually very stiff, and makes a strange, haunting half-whistle, half-moan as the wind blows through it.This eerie sound can spook even the most experienced adventurers, if they are unfamiliar with the Tortured Lands.During periods of droughts, this grass becomes extremely brittle and dry and can spread grass fires quickly.
Side-oats grass is usually found on rare hillsides in the tall-grass Prairie. It needs the drier conditions of the low hills to thrive.Side-oats grass is an actually low grass almost three feet tall. On the leaves there are long hairs, spaced far a part.
This plant has strong cords of cells so grasshoppers, caterpillars and insects cannot eat it. It attracts many insects. The very top looks like a hardened leather ball - it is actually the flower of the plant. The leaves on the plant have small stickers that are very sharp and looks like pins. Touching the leaves with bare skin can be very painful. Leather gloves and reasonably heavy clothing are advised.
Other Flora Notes
A succession of blooms from spring into fall is typical of prairie flowers, and the late season color of the grasses provides interest well into the winter. Butterflies and hummingbirds are also attracted to the flowers, and songbirds utilize the ripening seeds in the fall. The overall effect is a dynamic, ever-changing landscape that reflects the rhythm of the seasons, year after year.
Over the centuries, the native prairie plants have evolved to survive the extreme conditions that occur in the Tortured Lands. They have had to deal with disease, drought, searing summer heat, severe winters, and the ravages of grazing by vast herds of roth’e and elk. In response to these calamities, prairies plants have developed root systems that are double or triple the size of their above ground growth. These large below-ground reserves of energy allow the plants to survive unfavorable conditions and recover from damage rapidly.
The prairie grasses produce a thick mat of finely divided roots in the upper three to four feet of the soil, with some extending as far as nine feet deep in their search for moisture and nutrients. In order to compete with the grasses, many of the prairie flowers have root systems that extend far below those of the grasses, up to 15 feet and more in some cases. Others have enlarged underground storage organs such as bulbs, corms and rhizomes that allow them to endure periods of severe stress.
Many of the spring-blooming prairie flowers go dormant ornear-dormant by mid-summer, making way for the coneflowers, blazingstars, sunflowers, and myriad of other summer bloomers. Following this mid-summer exposition, the asters, goldenrods, and gentians attain prominence in the season's floral finale.
There are probably over 100 varieties of wildflowers that grow on these Tortured Lands, covering every shade in the rainbow. The growing season for these plants may be short - but it is very colorful. Here are just a few examples of some of the wildflowers that thrive here:
White Lady's Slipper
The white lady's slipper is a small orchid-like found in wet meadows and slough borders in the Tortured Lands. It grows in clumps, blooming briefly in late Mirtul or early Kythorn.
This is one of the early-blooming wildflowers, a sure sign that spring has come to the prairies. The crocus often blooms shortly after the snow disappears in Tarsakh. Its many-divided, silky leaves arise after flowering is completed.
The slender, pointed fruits of spear grass have long, twisted "beards" or awns projecting from their tips. After the seed is shed, the first moisture causes the awn to straighten. Then, in drying out, the awn twists again and screws the seed of this cool season grass into the soil, where it can germinate.
Blue grama grass is easily recognized by its seed head which resembles a toothbrush. This warm season grass is very drought hardy and will out compete taller grasses in times of low moisture.
Food and Medicinal Plants of the Tortured Lands.
In addition to grasses and wildflowers, there are a number of important food plants and medicinal herbs that grow on the prairies of the Tortured Lands. Some of these plants are:
Breadroot has a thick, tuberous root, valued as a food source by both barbarians of the Ride and some of the other humanoids living in the region.
Dotted Blazing Star
Dotted blazing star was once used by the Barbarians of the Ride to treat kidney diseases and has long been cultivated in gardens as a bedding plant and for cut flowers.
The roots of the purple coneflower were used by the Barbarians of the Ride as a painkiller for toothaches and sore throats.
Fauna of the Tortured Lands
The Plains had a rich and diverse fauna. Animal species varied with the nature of the habitat. Ecological balance was maintained by natural processes in which populations of herbivores were the food source for several species of carnivores.
The Surface Rothe herds are the key to humanoid survival in the Tortured Lands. Rothe provided the inhabitants of the area with food, skins for clothing and shelter, containers, tools, weapons, and fuel. Other than the specified locations noted later, the tribes of the Tortured Lands are nomadic - moving their belongings with travois (either dog, hyeana or horse pulled) in order to stay near the wandering herds.
Experienced hunters (both human and gnoll) of the Tortured Lands will ambush Rothe at water holes, trapped them in gullies, or drive them into pre-arranged, running ambushes. More sophisticated tribes could even set up corrals (like the buffalo pounds used in by some of the natives of North America) in order to trap, contain and kill members of the herd.
All of these hunting methods are communal, and would involved nearly all of the healthy members of the tribe. While experienced hunters will do the actual killing, younger tribal members would wave blankets and make noise to drive the animals in the desired direction. Once the roth’e are killed, older members of the tribe will begin the harvesting of the meat and hides while the rest of the herd is either driven into the next portion of the running ambush, or scattered across the plains. Everyone would help haul the harvested animals back to the camp.
The caribou is a medium-sized member of the deer family. Other members of the deer family that could be found in small numbers scattered throughout the Tortured Lands would include moose, elk, white-tailed deer, and mule deer. Caribou are similar to reindeer. Unlike other members of the deer family, with caribou, both males and females have antlers.
Caribou are primarily found north of the Sunrise Mountains in the tundra region of the Tortured Lands. This region is noted for low temperatures, strong winds, and snow cover for 9-10 months out of the year. The soil is rocky, and usually frozen for much of the year. The prairie grasses that cover the rest of the Tortured Lands are absent in this region - only very short, tough grasses, scrub plants and lichen manage to grow on the tundra.
The largest of the caribou herds of the Tortured Lands migrate in established patterns from the shelter of the northern portions of the Frozen Forest (where they winter) to the open tundra, where they spend their brief summers. The gnolls of Mt. Ghaethluntar have marked these migrations for generations, and send large hunting parties to follow the herds and harvest hundreds of animals during every migration. This hunting, combined with the predation of wolves trims the caribou herds to manageable sizes and ensures the health of the species. Like the Roth'e, the caribou provides food, clothing, and shelter: bones are made into needles and utensils, antlers into tools, and the sinew into thread; the fat provides fuel and light; the skin is made into light, warm clothing, tanned for use in armor & shields, and also used as tent material; and the meat feeds the gnolls and their dogs.
Wolves are one of he most widely distributed mammals on Toril. They live in large areas of Faerun; the only places they cannot occupy are deserts, tropical rain forests, and peaks of the highest mountain ranges. The Tortured Land is no exception. In fact, wolves are one of the dominant species of the Tortured Lands.
Wolves in the Tortured Lands have extremely dense underfur, which insulates them against rigorous winters. This also makes their pelts more valuable for use in clothing. A typical wolf pelt from the Tortured Lands will bring up to 50% more than it's more southern cousins.
It is virtually impossible to make a universal statement about the color of these pelts, however. The wolves of the Tortured Lands range in color from arctic white to coal black. Even then, a wolf that may appear snow-white from a distance will have gray, black, or reddish shades. A single wolf pack may contain animals that are black, shades of gray-brown, and white.
Wolves are territorial. Each pack occupies an area that it will defend against intruders. Sizes of territories vary greatly and are dependent on the kind and abundance of prey available. Wolves' chief prey are large mammals such as rothe, moose, caribou and elk. Wolves also eat a variety of smaller mammals and birds.
Lynx (and Giant Lynx)
The lynx is a beautiful wildcat, which typically inhabits the Frozen Forest region of the Tortured Lands. Like most cats, the lynx tends to be secretive and most active at night and is rarely seen in the wild. The lynx preys almost exclusively on the snowshoe hare in the winter. Even in summer, hares remain the main prey, supplemented by grouse, voles, mice, squirrels, and foxes.
The lynx resembles a very large domestic cat. It has a short tail, long legs, large feet, and prominent ear tufts. Its winter coat is light grey and slightly mottled with long guard hairs; the underfur is brownish, and the ear tufts and tip of the tail are black. The summer coat is much shorter than the winter coat and has a definite reddish brown cast.
The grizzly bear is a subspecies of the brown bear. It is the second largest species of bear, and, like the polar bear, has a prominent hump over the shoulders formed by the muscles of its massive forelegs.
Its color ranges from nearly white or ivory yellow to black. Generally, grizzlies have light or grizzled fur on the head and shoulders, a dark body, and even darker feet and legs. The body shape and long fur tend to make grizzlies look heavier than they actually are.
Although it is considered to be a meat-eater, the grizzly is generally omnivorous; plants make up 80% to 90% of its diet. Grizzlies prey on mammals and migrating salmon, where they are available, but on the whole rely on vegetation for food. For a brief time in spring, grizzly bears are significant predators of newborn rothe, elk, moose, deer, and caribou, but once these young animals are a few weeks old they are too nimble for a bear to catch.
Moose are found on the rocky, wooded hillsides of the Turnback Mountains; along the margins of lakes and sloughs, the edgelands of the Border Forest; and even on the northern tundra. A bull moose in full spread of antlers is the most imposing natural animals in the Tortured Lands. It stands taller at the shoulder than the largest saddle horse. Big bulls weigh as much as a horse -- they average around 600 kg and can weigh as much as 800 kg for the largest members of the species.
Calves are helpless at birth. The mother keeps them in seclusion for a couple of days, hidden from their many enemies in a thicket. The voice of a newborn calf is a low grunt, but after a few days it develops a strident wail that is almost human. At the age of only a few days it can outrun a human, and swim readily.
The eyesight of the moose is extremely poor, but its senses of smell and hearing compensate for this. Before bedding down, a moose usually travels upwind for a time and then swings back in a partial circle. Thus predators on its track will have to approach from windward. Skilled gnoll hunters know when to leave the track and work their way upwind to the hiding place of their quarry.
The snowshoe hare is one of the ragions commonest forest mammals. Large well-furred hind feet enable the snowshoe hare to move easily over the snow. In soft snow the four long toes of each foot are spread widely, increasing the size of these "snowshoes" still more.
Another remarkable adaptation is the seasonal variation in fur color, from grey-brown in summer to almost pure white in midwinter. This alteration, brought about by a gradual shedding and replacement of the guard hairs twice yearly, is triggered by seasonal changes in day-length which affect the reproduction cycle and hence the molt.
The fur of the hare is not durable and hence has little or no commercial value. However, it is clearly one of the dominant small-mammal herbivores and key prey for many of the carnivore species in the Tortured Lands.
Lemmings are mouse-like rodents that live in treeless areas of the northern Tortured Lands. The smallest of the mammals of the tundra, lemmings are a prey species in the region. The small bodies of lemmings are important food for ermines, arctic foxes, Snowy Owls, Gyrfalcons, and many other carnivores.
The Snowy Owl in one of the most striking and distinctive of the owls. It is also the heaviest of normal (non-giant) owls. The Snowy Owl stands almost half a metre tall, with a wingspan of almost 1.5 m. The female is larger and heavier than the male (average weight of 2.3 kg versus 1.8 kg). Adult males may be almost pure white in colour. Adult females are darker, their white feathers barred with dark brown.
Snowy Owls breed on the arctic tundra regions of the Tortured Lands. Some Snowy Owls remain over the winter in the areas where they nest, while other owls migrate to more southerly latitudes. In certain parts of their wintering range (which range from the prairies of the Tortured Lands south to the Dalelands and the Cormanthor Forest) they are regular visitors, although their numbers vary from year to year.
During winter in the Tortured Lands, Snowy Owls inhabit prairies, marshes, open fields, or shorelines, habitats that resemble the treeless tundra of their breeding range. Although some individuals may wander in winter, many establish and defend hunting territories for periods of two or three months. Snowy Owls are rather shy and usually silent, unless nesting. They will hiss, scream, or snap their bill at those intruding on their territories, and will dive at, or even strike, human intruders at their nests.
The Bard Sparrow is well camouflaged to blend into its prairie environment, but its call, two to three zips followed by a distinctive musical trill, which earned the bird it’s name. It nests on the ground in idle or lightly grazed native mixed-grass prairie.
The burrowing owl prefers grazed pastures or mixed grass prairie. Unlike any other owl, it nests below ground, occupying abandoned ground-squirrel burrows.
The loggerhead shrike lives primarily in open country and prairie. It is known for its practice of impaling its food (grasshoppers, insects or rodents) on thorns and twigs.
The largest hawk in of the Tortured Lands, this animal is often seen soaring above the open grasslands searching for ground-squirrels. Ferruginous hawks usually nest in isolated trees, building large flat nests.
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