Eldwood

Of all the forests in the world, the Eldwood is held to be the oldest, the heart of the ancient Ethvold. Here Tefnut came and built her house upon the shores of the Edenflow. From there she pushed the forest boundaries into the north and west. Now the forest is ringed by the kingdoms of men and is a shadow of its former self. It clings to the river like a dying man in a flood.   The Eldwood is protected, however, for the kingdom of Kayomar, the most powerful realm in the west, stands constant guard. Her knights and cavaliers have long held the ravages of the world at bay. Her kings long ago made peace with the elven lords of the forest, so that the Eldwood’s trees are not harvested by the men of Kayomar. Her kings of old were buried in the heart of the wood, for they considered it holy ground. All of this serves to make the forest the natural home of elf, druid, and ranger. Only in the Oth River Valley in the south do men still offer the forest harm, but these tread lightly, for the elves slay them for the slightest transgression.   Before the coming of the Dark the druids gathered in the Eldwood and planted a sapling. The little tree was a gift from the goddess Wenafar, one of the Val Eahrakun. In time it grew to become the Great Oak, the Father, and legend in its own right. It was a sapling of the One Tree in the east, the Eahrtaut, and its might was such that it kept the Dark at bay. The Eldwood survived the degradations of the Winter Dark and the rule of Unklar for over a thousand years, and the elves which people its more distant reaches never fled nor succumbed to his dark designs. During the Winter Dark Wars, the elves, chided by Daladon Half-Elven, joined the Lords of Kayomar and fought against Unklar, driving him from the southern lands. After the wars the forest came to know a peace it had not known since its earliest days. Daladon, a Val-Tulmiph, dwells here, as do his flights of griffon riders and marches of rangers, the Watchers in the Wood. King Nigold rules the wood elves as he has done for time without count. The druids meet still, gathering under their master, the high druid, in their hidden glades to watch over the forest and their charge, the Great Oak, the Father.   The Eldwood is an old growth forest, consisting mostly of oak trees, though this is slowly changing. The forest is usually divided into three parts. In the Vulgate, the outer forest is called the Rimwald (the forest rim), the old boundary the Festungwald (the wall), and the heart of the forest the Eldwald (the old forest).   In the Rimwald, travel is easy. There are many paths wandering through the open trees and a number of small human settlements are sprinkled throughout. Along its northern reaches, the forest gives way to pine trees. Where the Oth River Valley begins, the forest oaks give way to wild trees and short grasses. In the east, the great oaks of the forest’s heart look down from high bluffs. In the north, the forest has changed, if only in recent years. An ever growing number of silver maple and birch trees are expanding the size and slowly changing the composition of the forest.   Passing deeper into the forest travelers encounter a great tangle of underbrush, younger trees, and wild animals, the Festungwald (festung being an old dwarf word, literally translated “fortress”). This marks the border of the old forest and the natural wall that ranger, druid, and elf planted to keep the minions of the Horned God at bay. It also marks the old boundary of the kingdom of Kayomar, and is now in some dispute between those who dwell within the forest and the king. In the Festungwald, which averages 15 miles thick in places, travel is very difficult. The tangled brush, vines, and thick trees all lend to an inhospitable maze. When the forest was planted, the rangers took advantage of the old fortification of Kayomar, so that dungeons, abandoned castles, and old ruins are not uncommon, adding to the dangers of the fortress.   Within the deep woodland lies the old forest, the Eldwald. Ancient oaks stand like monumental buildings. The boles of these massive trees line the forest like pillars of stone, and are capped by arching branches and leafy canopies. The trees are wide spaced, allowing easy passage across the vaulted forest floor. Beneath lies a land of ancient mystery. Deep pools in hidden places feed cold streams that trickle through hidden valleys. Glades of wondrous beauty hide the homes of dryads and faerie. The wood elves of Nigold hunt here in small bands, and eldritch monsters from the world’s dawn stalk the forest deeps. It is said that the trees themselves come alive, and when the moon waxes, the eldest of them lift their tired roots from the ground and gather in a great meet to sing lamentations of their lost world, for they alone, of all the world’s denizens, remember the Days before Days when the trees alone wandered the earth.   There is but one road, the Old Post Road, which traverses the length of the Eldwood. It was constructed early during the Winter Dark and stretches from the eastern borders by the sea, through the Eldwood, to the town of Elne, and on into the Darkenfold forest. From there it goes into the far west, to the Rhodope Mountains. The ranger order, the Watchers in the Wood, led by the half-elven ranger, lord, and high druid Daladon Orcbane (named for the Val Tulmiph of legend), guard the road and keep it in good shape. There are no villages on the road, but near the forest center there is a large open meadow called the Open by the folk of that forest. Here the forest lords, be it elf, druid, or ranger, gather to meet one another or other folk who seek their aid or council. Travel on the road is at a normal pace, and it offers the only easy access through the forest.

Type
Forest

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