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The Rainbow Rainforest is filled densely with living plants and animals. Nearly all the plants have bright colors edging or spotting the leaves; flowers are large and plentiful. Insects and frogs are found in many beautiful colors, from hot pink to soft gray; there are a great variety of fruits and medicinal herbs. Beautiful birds sing and lay an abundance of eggs. The only large predators when the Empire first came into contact with the rainforest were humans. The animals native to the rainforest are relatively docile, compared to other similar species. Both animals and plants are resistant to diseases known in ancient times. In addition, many of the plants are more nutritious for humans than their cousins elsewhere.
There are many animals indigenous to the Rainbow Rainforest. A few mentioned in the story, The Butterfly Girl series, are the squatty goose, akaalekirj butterflies, bluedream songbirds, and sky blue boa.
Akallekirj means joyous insect, and is sometimes used as a synonym for butterflies in general, but in the Rainbow Rainforest, it is most often used for a bright blue butterfly with green, gold, and white markings, upper wings with scalloped edges and lower wings that resemble the wings of the swallowtail butterfly.
Bluedream songbirds are a small, finch-like species of bird with bright blue plumage and a beautiful song. The birds sing to welcome the dawn, but can be heard at nearly any time of the day or night, as they are just as prone to scolding and chatter as bluejays or squirrels. They are quite bold, not afraid of people at all. They are also very quick.
The squatty goose is beautiful and docile. The feathers are pink, gold, or orange, with markings in red, magenta, brown, or black. The females tend be paler, the males brighter and with more dramatic markings on the wings, neck, and tail.. A female squatty goose produces two to three times the number of eggs produced by a normal goose. The eggs are also larger than normal goose eggs. Unfertilized eggs are a pale yellow in color and are pretty easy to spot; fertilized they are a greenish gold that blends in with some of the plants the geese find tasty. Unfortunately, the geese have lost the instinct to build a nests and protect their eggs. The female goose lays eggs wherever she happens to be. Due to the larger size of the egg and yolk sack, the chicks hatch in a more advanced state of development, able to walk around and feed themselves, once they figure out what tastes good. A squatty goose chick will try to eat just about anything, and about as many are lost to eating things that are dangerous or merely lacking in nutrition as are lost to predation. There are a number of cultural references and jokes based around the squatty goose’s shortcomings as both chick and parent.
There are a number of species of boa in the Rainbow Rainforest. The sky blue boa is a small tree-climbing snake that feeds on small birds, bird eggs, and tree frogs. The color is quite unusual, but the snake is surprisingly easy to overlook when it’s in a treetop.
There are also many edible and medicinal plants in the Rainbow Rainforest, most of them still to be developed. A few that we have developed already are:
Queen flower, a spiky purple flower whose leaves are called aderth, and are used as both a pain killer and an antibiotic. The taste of the leaves is bitter. It is used to treat people who are injured, and aderth is commonly used to prevent infections or complications from getting a tattoo. As a result, the queen flower is often planted in locations used for tattooing.
Bread trees are large, tall trees with trunks composed largely of a loose, starchy center surrounded by tough bark. Very large, umbrella-like leaves are brilliant green on one side and purple on the other. The fibrous center is very nutritious and, when dried, will last several months. The leaves can be boiled down to produce a bright yellow dye, and the strong, flexible bark can be used as a building material.
See this poem for a description of more of the plants of the rainforest!
Many of the trees here have holes drilled through their trunk or branches, with reeds inset in them, so that the wind blowing through the forest creates musical tones. These trees can be a number of different varieties, but they are all referred to as reed trees. The trees will overgrow the reeds if the bark is not periodically cut away. The other human-made music that fills the rainforest is windchimes, made of every conceivable material. Because this was an original Mayaloi practice, it is one of the tourist attractions. In the areas officially settled by the Empire, maintenance of the wind chimes and reed trees is done by people whose job is to tend the forest. However, away from the Empire’s settlements and tours, the reed trees and wind chimes are maintained by the purists who live there.
In the rainforest, there are ancient stone buildings in beautiful spots where the Mayaloi lived during the sundered times and created works of art, ranging from cloth dolls to paintings to silver and gold jewelry to blacksmithy. By the time the shard opened, however, metal was scarce. The remaining Mayaloi artifacts are housed in protective cases, mostly in the museums. The tourist inns have similar objects, also in protective cases, however, most of these are reproductions.
The Rainbow Rainforest has become a tourist destination; all but one of the (known) old stone buildings are licensed as Inns or Museums. The remaining building is the center gathering spot for the Rainbow Art Colony. Additionally, the Apothecaries Guild has built several smaller houses there to tend and harvest medicinal herbs that grow poorly or not at all away from their native forest. It is difficult and expensive to get a license to live in the Rainbow Rainforest, but not impossible, so there are other inhabitants as well.
Occasionally, brightly painted or tattooed purists are glimpsed in the distance, living wild in the more inaccessible portions of the rainforest, however, none of them are of Mayaloi descent, nor do they have any clear connection to Mayaloi pre-contact culture.
The colorful birds, lizards, and snakes of the Rainbow Rainforest quickly became popular exotic pets in the Empire, a practice that continues to this day. Because of the bright colors and docility, the insects and animals of this area rarely do well in the wild away from their native habitat. However, because of the wild color scheme and the tightly knit ecosystem, very few drab insects, lizards, or birds have managed to get a foothold in this rainforest. Some smaller predators, foxes and a small wildcat, have taken over the humans’ place in the ecosystem.
Rainbow Art Colony: This is a colony of respected artists running an Empire-accredited Art School. They have a few students who get in during first or second form, if their skills are extraordinary and their parents, a patron, or some governmental program pays for tutoring in the standard first and second form subjects. However, most of the students are third-form or higher. In addition to the Aramaya School of fine arts, there are two other schools, the Batakai School of scientist-art students, who are there to learn to make exacting drawings of biological subjects for scientific studies and textbooks, and the Araglifa School, whose students focus on theater-related arts from posters and scenery to costumes and props.
Rainforest Glory is the name of a high-end brand of art supplies, particularly paints, whose pigments are derived from the plants of the Rainbow Rainforest.
Currently, The Rainbow Tribes live scattered through the rainforest as Purists outside the confines of the Empire.
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Bread Tree: Bread trees are rainforest canopy trees with an edible, starchy core.
Queen Flower: A tropical flowering plant with leaves that are a pain killer and antibiotic.
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