Again, gorgeous. I actually love the sole line in your description. Does that come from anything or is it your own? It fits the piece so well (IMO you should have made that the title!) and it's just so awesome.
Wow, the distant trees are a world unto themselves that I just want to dive into. I *love* the swirl of colours and brush direction down up there -- it looks foggy and snakey and alive all at the same time. Again, great light/dark balance throughout and distribution.
I wish WoTC would hire you to do module settings. If I saw this on a cover I'd be up to the counter with it in no time, regardless of what was inside.
I'm just barely to "why use 125 strokes when I can use 109?" I knew when I saw it that the brushwork was very conscious, and it looks great.
You may already be active in the ArtOrder community, but I'd highly recommend it if you've the time. Constant challenges, lots of exposure, and it's become a pretty amazing talent (and seeker) hub in the sci-fi/fantasy arena.
Kinda, but only because I've observed such lighting from life before. The effect is basically a warm red-orange, with a purer white in the center. when light turns to shadow, there are often highly saturated colors along that transition.