In Riola there is a forest, long simply called the Charwood or the Watching Wood. There strange things about and often times this or that youth would wander in... far more rarely would they ever wander out again with one exception. Each royal Heir was expected to prove themselves in the Charwood. Sometimes even they never returned, yet more often would a failed Heir be deposited at the edge of the Charwood dazed and confused with an irrational terror of the woods. Most often such failed Heirs were found some position here or there and typically swept under the rug. yet sometimes what came of such a one was more mysterious. Through it all some force in the Wood remained loyal to the crown, though no one could tell who or what that force truly was. For all it's power and strangeness, the Wood does not look beyond its borders unless such a view is forced upon it. And the fringes are only slighlty more perilous than any normal wood, and many a peasant and many a woodsman takes their chances up on the fringes of the Charwood finding there as the Virtues and Vices dictate and trying not to draw the attention of the spirit of the Wood. For the Charwood is, itself, alive and it has its whims.
Located between the kingdoms of Riola and Lasofair to the east and west, respectively and bounded by the Fairbreth Mountains in the south and the Storm Sea in the north, the Charwood covers several hundered miles. While it's external boundaries are well known (and woe be unto any logger or Lord who tries to alter those boundaries too dramatically!), it's interior is completely unmapped save for a single road that runs straight through the center between Riola and Lasofair . The over all terrain ranges from foothills down to the smooth costal plain, if the wood follows the lay of the land. Reports from those who have managed to win free of the wood say that such is not always the case, either the Wood follows its own geography or the pathways between parts of the wood do not follow the logic and geography of the rest of the world. There are rumors that it must be part of the Fae Realms a rumor the Fae themselves explicitly and vehemently deny. Few people who enter the Charwood ever return, so information on its interior is understandably sparse.
Fauna & Flora
The Charwood is supernaturally verdant. The Seasons do not touch it in the same manner that they pass elsewhere. Winter's Crocus and summer roses may bloom side by side. Apples may be picked next to strawberries. The weather is as capricious as the woods themselves, and this shows in the flora and the fauna. Those who live on the fringes of the Charwood often find great rarities under the near edges. The forest is largely deciduous in nature, though some great pine trees and other ever greens mingle with the oak and elm and maple. Nut trees and berry bushes abound. The grass is lush, and herbs and flowers are plentiful. The wildlife is also plentiful and never seems at want for food or drink. Several small streams run into and out of the Charwood, but unless there is no other option, most common folk avoid water flowing from the Charwood, at least too close to the source. It is never wise to meddle to deeply in places of power. Predators also roam the Charwood and sometimes venture out into the surrounding countryside. Yet the ones that do come out rarely disappear back into the woods, and those that do seem to have wreaked ruin on someone who had offended against the wood in some way, speculation on that aspect of the woods is best left to another treatise and is not the preview of this document.
Common Trees:Oak is the staple of the forest. Also common are Maple, Pines, Beech, Birch, and Willow
Common Fruit trees:Apple, Cherry, Fig, Pear, Persimmons, and Plum (black plums and golden)
Common Nut trees:Black walnut, Chestnut, and Hazelnuts
Common Berry Bushes:Blackberry, blue berry, currants, and elderberry
Other common plants:Lavender, Thyme, Basil, Oregono, chives, grasses, onions, mint, foxglove, nightshade, and numerous others. Wild oats, wheat, and barley can also be found.
Oddities and rarities:The Charwood is home to more types of flora than could be listed here, including rare medicinals, edibles, etc. In fact most things known to botonists grow in great abundance in the Wood. There are a few species of plant that, thus far, are unique to the wood or are, in one case, only found in specific other locations. Witch Wood - so called because it only grows in locations of great magical power such that witches and warlocks, who have no powers of their own seek it out these trees looking for safe sources of power. The tree resembles a Beech tree in formation and base coloration, but the bark and leaves are interlaced with power. Witches and Warlocks claim they can tell much about the magical source based on the color the Power takes; however, none have seen fit to share their discoveries so it remains as yet unverified. In the Charwood these trees seem to be most often laced with silver. Crystal vine - This vine is often found both climbing up massive trees, with a preference for chestnuts, and spreading over shady groves. It prefers shaded areas. It has tear drop shaped leaves of dark green, and in spring that is all you can see. In summer rose-like blooms of slivery blue. The flowers are often used in magical workings and as more mundane gifts. In fall fruits begin to appear, though the flowers remain. These fruits resemble teardrop shaped crystals, with an internal refraction that does not quite follow the patterns of an actual crystal. While these fruit are edible (if incredibly tough) they are most often, as with the flowers, used in magical workings. Naduli - a nasty little nettle whose sting swiftly induces unconsciousness. They are often found Kithi lairs, or more Kithi often make their lairs near Naduli as unconscious prey is easier to hunt. These nettles are highly prized in medicines for putting patients to sleep for more complicated proceedures. There is also a healthy black market for more nefarious purposes.
Overview of FaunaThe fauna of the Wood are more fraught with peril. For you never know when the bear before you is a true Bear, a magical construct, or some poor wretch ensorcelled by the woods for their folly or Cursed by their Vices. While containing the normal range of woodland creatures from insects to rabbits, deer, and Bears there are a few creatures that bear explicit mention. Kithi - This is an eight foot ground based lizard. Some have called it a flightless dragon, but it is largely unwise to do so too loudly in the presence of even the least of the true dragons. The Kithi are true animals, with bellicose and territorial natures. They are often hungry, and tend to gravitate towards more magical regions especially around the Naduli nettles, which make catching prey much easier. They have a certain resistance to magic which means they eat things that no other predator or scavenger would, such as cockatrice and basilsik corpses. Flutter-fox - This strange creature seems to have the mingled aspects of a hawk and a fox, a fox's general shape with the wings of a bird. The fox's tail can puff out and 'fan' by unknown mechanism to serve the same function as a bird's tail. They feed on small rodents but live exclusively near the Crystal Vines and feed on the fruit there of as well. They come in a variety of colors, such that they're often called Fairy Foxes. Their flight capability is limited and much more akin to what a small song bird might manage than a hawk or eagle. Mote - presumed to be a species of insect akin to the fireflies of summer, the mote is a small bright creature that is found around lingering magic. Many can be found around Witch Wood trees, but where the trees need a long term constant source of magic to grow as such, the Motes seem to only need more fleeting presence of magic. They can be quite a pest to a mage, but very useful in the detection of faint magical residues. They are difficult to capture so their utility is quite limited, as is our knowledge of them.
Known PersonagesThe Stone Man - Reports of this man's existence are persistent enough to lend credence, though whether it is a single golem or a race of stone people there is insufficient information to say. He appears periodically, seemingly as a messenger of the woods. Beyond that little is known.
Little is known of what other resources lie in the Charwood, after Lasofair's last attempted invasion, where the entire army were slain, and then marched back to the capitol (presumably by the Wood itself) as a warning, most people are disinclined to delve too deeply into the wood itself and discover the mysteries of the Wood for themselves. Yet those few that go in and do manage to come back out often have great riches to tell for it. Gems and gold are oft recounted, but the most truthful tales speak of a city of stone and the treasures there in... treasures given as rewards for services rendered. Yet none going in seeking this city have ever returned.