The vast expanse taunted us from the mouth of the cabin. There was so much snow. Much like the maps, the land itself was hastily sketched in by the hand of God, afeared by the horrors His creations had turned loose. "A hunt in the Beastwilds can make or break a man," Sigurd addressed us, hands on his hips and already smoking a pipe. Loke fran Tundren, the veteran of the group, broke into a laugh, "All it does is break a man?" he scoffed, "You haven't been out here very often."There are two notable areas in Poraile called "the Beastwilds". This refers to the vast section of free land north of Noravägen and Ederesse. It's said to span further than so far recorded, since few cartographers or other travellers dare to travel too deep into the Beastwilds. It serves a common hunting ground, primarily legislated by the hunters and their guilds. Hunters and knights can be hired as guides for those unprepared to fight the monsters that lie within, though those without basic survival skills are refused from crossing the thresholds.
The Beastwilds have pine forests, mountains and hills, covered in snow most of the year. In the spring and summer, the snow thaws from intense sunlight and reveals the vegetation underneath. There are many rivers, all leading into the southern seas. They often lead into largest lake in Noravägen, separated from the sea by a connecting landmass that is 30 miles at its thinnest. This stretch of land is commonly known by locals as "The Bastions". Lakes and rivers are scarcer the further north, but an ice sheet acts as a barrier between the explored and untamed. It's an area known for both beauty and barbarity, in the landscape and creatures that live there. The hills and mountains are popular spots for viewing Argrossa's Wings and vital for hunters and travellers for a prompt lay of the land. Most of the horizon cannot be relied upon, however. The beasts that inhabit the Wilds can change a landscape dramatically, either through destruction, their own migration patterns or illusions. An area with a map that is changing with all the seasons of life, to call it "vibrant" would be a disservice.
Fauna & Flora
BeastsThe most concentrated Beastwilds in all Poraile, it's considered the ultimate challenge for hunters and not worth visiting for anyone else. What lies in the Beastwilds is unknown for certain, but the regular visitor for any traveller is the Ismassk - an apex predator that takes advantage of the snowy landscape to ensnare prey, travellers included. Snap wolves are common, able to assemble and reassemble themselves in the cold temperatures. Entirely made of ice, these beasts don't need to eat, sleep or reproduce. Without fire or a traveller able to use magic, "snappers" are one of the highest but common hurdles a hunter can face making their fortune here. Killing a snapper yields no reward except winning their lives. Northern Ents are rumoured to settle here where men cannot, co-ordinating the pines into clusters or rows depending on the occasion. Missing from these lands are nymphs and dryads, who would keep the land clear of beasts and other unholy abominations. Ents are comfortable living anywhere, so long as they have trees to shepherd. They ignore visitors. Visitors would be wise to do the same. Dragons are known to settle in the north, hunted to extinction everywhere else. Though occasional, the shadow of outstretched dragon wings in the sky is a feared sight. Forging their dens by melting tunnels into the mountains, their breath burns down anything in their path. There's no task more fitting of the term "gamble" than a dragon hunt. As with many abandoned landscapes infested with aether, Wraiths and the undead roam the mountains, looking for either salvation or blood. Whilst Wraiths retain their sentience and memories, draugir are only their physical husks, eager to cut at any passing intruders. Demons also roam the Beastwilds, awaiting the arrival of the living to whisk them to fire and brimstone with the promises of "warmth" and "a place to say". Those who are lucky become contracted to them, assigned for life to a demon's servitude, whereas most perish, burning to death in the cold. Hunters aren't interested in most of these stories, or quarry, for that matter. Their most valuable prizes come from the unknown horrors lurking beyond even these. Wizards and scientists alike pay handsomely for new bodies and new knowledge about them. What they hunt, how they do it, who died and how. It's tough work, but an even tougher life without it.
The Beastwilds have been populated with fauna and beasts since times long unknown. It's said that wizards and Wiccan of old would use these infamous lands as a battleground or to settle long-held disputes. Within the Beastwilds, ghosts of their towers and cities remain untouched beneath the blistering cold. Nowadays, the aether-knowing have travelled south and have forgotten the horrors and marvels lying in this ancient wilderness. Unsuccessful expeditions to "reclaim" the Frosted Crown started in earnest with King Frederick of the Vards. These attempts coincide with his attempts to consolidate his rule described within the Legend of the Cursed Blade. Though this attempt to bring civilisation into the Beastwilds lasted longer than most, it ended in casualties and a growing lack of confidence in King Frederick as a ruler. The domain became exclusive of hunters and voyagers when village populations plummeted in the 4th century. One of the causes of this was the system of the time, where villagers were expected to defend their homes from beasts and wild animals from the Beastwilds independently of any local military or legal authority. A wayward veteran travelled around Noravägen and clusters of villagers unable to defend themselves, following an oath they made to redeem their sins in a forgotten war. This inspired a trend for people to take up arms against beasts in their community's place, which slowly evolved into the profession of hunting as it's known today. Tribes and kingdoms alike have endured in the Beastwilds, but the most long-lasting have only stayed in small groups. Forming stationary settlements like town and cities has become risky, with most inhabitants living a nomadic lifestyle and visiting neighbouring domains for trade. These people also trade with travellers and wayward souls, offering their services to those who need them.
Harrowing stories await an adventurer braving the Beastwilds. Whispers in low voices after the fight is done, leaving tavern visitors wondering whether their tales were thanks to the terrors beyond or the drink. Whichever is responsible, hunters and hopeful heroes make their way to the Frozen Crown in droves, hoping to score big and earn high positions in society. Wayward travellers might come across villages, camps and mountainside forts of settlers and eccentrics, eager for the new faces and source of income. Residents are eager to hear stories out the outside world just as much as tourists are hungry for rumours of the latest beasts.