There are many creatures crawling around this world. For ones, they are very real, and for others are a part of legends or fairy tales. The vastness of the world hides many of them, with species and shapes crossing the line of the imagination. For the inhabitants of the Ancient Lands, horned creatures with many heads, called Gerrothyns, which are tainting the northern Argatoria, or the Snakemen from Slythia gifted with the unusual mental abilities, are unreal, and just telling about them can be a reason for mockery. So you can only speculate what the average inhabitant of these lands will say if we tell him about the infernal creatures of the Cursed Lands. Of course, a resident of Vartevia will react differently, which probably will result in the words that he has already seen a lot, and a resident of Boria, who not only will not give faith but can lynch us for sowing fear among the populace.
Every land looks differently on beasts and strange creatures. The population is troubled by many problems and fears, which is why they prefer not to listen to the stories that something worse may come. In the forests of the Ancient Lands, there are many beasts and terrible creatures wandering in search of blood or souls. Residents, however, believe that high walls, knights, and hot prayers will protect them from evil. So when they hear that mysterious evil lurks beyond the borders of the Ancient Lands, they turn their heads or get angry. Their souls are afraid because they know that the dark land of Sheol-morg and its apostles can someday return and unleash the slaughter as before. Dragons may come from far-off Sardraq and incinerate the earth, turning everything into ruins. Legions of undead from Dead Lands, hordes from Al-dukbar, are just some of the fears that the inhabitants of the Ancient Lands want to forget. So they describe their fears in legends and fairy tales, forgetting that they based them on the truth…
It is not surprising, therefore, that many do not believe in the Land of Dreams, called otherwise a Secret Garden, an inconspicuous but dangerous place. A wall of tales and funny stories was built around its inhabitants. Colourful holidays and festivities are to further strengthen their belief that this is just a fantasy. Somewhere deep, however, beneath this peaceful surface of oblivion lies the grim and cruel truth that we shake off every morning. We repel bad dreams, and terrible, events are called nightmares. We do exactly the same while being in the Land of Dreams. We forget and deny the possibility of something out of sleep. The real world becomes ridiculous and after a while, we no longer remember about it. We wander a land that is so real that we don’t know what is true and what is reflected in a mirror.
Can you convince someone that real life is on the other side?
Where the border between reality and sleep fades, where the glow of the setting sun turns into the chill of the night and where anxiety turns into fear, there is a place inhabited by a race as mysterious as it is terrifying. Few inhabitants of cities and villages will answer the question of whether this land is dreamed or exists only in reality, but there are sages and travellers claiming that in the distant Agalloch Forest there is a mysterious gate that can lead to the land of the Dyniaqs. It is like a back entrance to the Land of Dreams, which, shrouded in eternal darkness, hides great secrets. When you cross the gate to the land of Dyniaqs, you can sometimes get the impression that this is not the real world, but only our dream. Perhaps we fell asleep under its steel, decorated bars and now we wander in a dream, differently perceiving everything that surrounds us and jumping between its blurry images. Our body sometimes seems light, as if we could soar, and a moment later we can’t lift a leg to take a step. We are all alone here, surrounded by dark trees and endless twilight.
In this land, the time has stopped in a sense, but our fear increases by the minute. If we have a lot of willpower, we will see in a distance between the trees the glow of the Dyniaq lanterns and hear the sounds of intricately woven music. If our spirit is weak and embittered, we will wake up like from a bad sleep under an ordinary gate that someone, as a joke, placed in the forest.
Secret Garden is a place that never sleeps and where preparations of Dyniaqs for holidays and rituals are constantly underway, so everyone who goes behind the gate may have the impression that it does not attract the attention of the inhabitants. However, this place has its guardians. They look between the trees and plants, their arches and bare swords ready. Therefore, if you decided that you walk this place unnoticed, then this dream may be your last.
Wandering through the Secret Garden, treading on its moist and peat-smelling soil, which has produced so many different trees and multi-coloured plants, it is not difficult to understand why this place is called a garden. Many trees have very unnatural shapes as if they were painted by a drunk artist who not only has a too vivid imagination but also chooses colors with crazy passion. Despite the darkness, they are clearly visible, as if everything had its internal, faint glow. The closer we approach the village of Dyniaqs, the more we pass the lighthouses, which with their orange glow illuminate the paths and nearby plants, adding to all the magical look.
It is visible from afar that the village is buildings, which are partly large plants or wooden constructions that entwine creepers, strengthening their construction and becoming subtle decorations. Many of them also have specific colours – shades of purple, intense purple, or yellow. They are decorated with vegetable railings and vines curling on their walls. Between some, you can see giant vines, which serve as bridges or entrances to the higher parts of the structure, which are watchtowers or houses of mages. In some windows you can see burning candles or oil lamps, illuminating the interiors of chambers filled with books, trunks, and countless potions. These are the seats of the Earth Wise Men who have been in charge of old artifacts for centuries. In others, you can see the empty walls, which are decorated with floral engravings and mysterious signs. These rooms serve as meeting places for the conclave, which are gathered to set new hiking paths for Dyniaqs and discuss the course of the holidays.
In this strange place, there are also many squares that have their unique names whispered louder or quieter, depending on the destination. There are prayers in some, seeds are segregated in others, and others are a place where legends are told. Mostly there are musicians in the area who play new arrivals to put them in the right mood.
Some places resemble huge mounds, whose structure is supported by countless creepers and shrubs. At the same time, they create patterns on the surface of the mound that, in addition to celadon light, also radiate magical energy rising many meters above the mound’s vault. These buildings are the Ulthua Temples, in which the Dyniaq druids perform rituals of planting sacred Thalbien Trees, whose seeds arranged in the temple sprout in various regions of the world. Around the mound, there are many helpers who constantly bear Cucurbits to the huge well located nearby, which is in fact a huge underground furnace, used to burn the fruits of the earth in its green flames. The furnaces are always right next to the Ulthua Temples so that the newly obtained energy can quickly go through the underground roots straight to the planted Thalbien Trees.
Masters of Ornaments
The strangest thing, however, is buildings reminiscent of large-sized hollow pumpkins, from which windows fly billowing bluish smoke. In their interiors, blacksmiths called the Masters of Ornaments, forge and form by magic and hammers intricately decorated weapons, armour, and shields of Dyniaqs. Although at first glance they may resemble steel creations, they are completely made of quartz and hardened wood. Unlike steel equipment, they can have different colours, depending on the magic that gave them shape. They are a great secret of the Dyniaqs because their strength and lightness are second only to the products of elven blacksmiths. Masters of Ornaments are not only talented craftsmen but also skilled swordsmen who often embark on expeditions of the Dyniaqs as part of their armed forces.
On the outskirts of this factory, there are many places that are much darker and more dangerous. These include the Cucurbit Plains, on which large crows hunt, ruthless to any daredevil who has been present in their territory for too long. They usually watch the plains, sitting on the shoulders of their terrifying masters, straw creatures called Hohole, who clumsily wander through the plains looking for the wretches from which they can drain magic. They are the main reason why the trip for the Cucurbits is dangerous and many Dyniaqs have paid for it with their lives. Hohole is completely immune to magic, so the only solution is to run away from them. However, if we find ourselves between the big Crow and Hohole, our fate is unfortunately decided.
Far beyond the Cucurbit Plains there are many wooded areas in which creatures much larger than giant crows lurk. They scramble between the trees, leaving them stuck with strange, sticky mucus, which is extremely toxic in itself. Their lairs resemble giant hollows, which only Dyniaqs familiar with taming the beast. Anyone else who enters the habitat of these creatures asks for a long and slow death. They look like big, fluffy pumpkin fruits, but they have glowing eyes and big mouths. Creepers that serve as legs do not allow them to move quickly, but despite the disproportion, this creature resembles a giant, awkward spider, constantly waiting for its prey.
In the Dyniaq language they are called Arachniaqs. Sometimes, expeditions from the Secret Garden take the beasts with them to watch the trails until they return, or to look for spies tracking their processions. There are many other creatures in the forests in which Arachniaqs live, but only a few come out of the shadows, and those who do this can not only change colours, but sometimes also shape. They are commonly called Nightmares. According to beliefs, they know byways that allow them to get directly to areas outside of the Secret Garden.