|Atlas Elyden #20 - the Old Forest and Rhamia|
Ancient accounts tell us that the forest once stretched across all of central Llachatul, from the eastern shores of the gulf of Skaros in the west, to the Argent mountains in the east, and from the northern shores of the Inner Sea to the polar circle in the north, covering most of central Llachatul - an area no smaller than * square-miles. So vast was it that it became a haven to disparate people fleeing ancient wars and genocides. Its dense cover and size meant that anyone with the ability to survive in the wild could enter its periphery and disappear, forgotten by the outside world for millennia.
The descendants of those early immigrants went on to populate the Old Forest, and from these small pockets emerged various groups of people - the attori, ramon’athi, valkai nomads, sidhe, and vanefari, amongst others - each with a history going back to the Fourth Age. These people populate different regions of the Old Forest and though propaganda and bigotry informs outsiders that they are a united people, they are in truth divided, linked only by the ancient traditions and religions they adhere to, and their hatred of outsiders.
There is a great deal of superstition surrounding the Old Forest and its people. What was once history became corrupted by distance into legends which have become ingrained in the cultures of lands surrounding the Old Forest. Tales of blood-moon worshipping druids, ley lines of ancient power, horrific fey creatures that defend their lands savagely from intruders, unicorns whose blood is said to be magical, ancient dragons, and bestial tree-kin are all common within lands such as Almagest and the empire. Modern scholars have tried to trace the origins of these myths to their mundane roots, though common sentiment is difficult to change. Besides, the greatest evidence of the evil nature of the Old Forest can be found in the tombs of the beings that rest there - no less than four Demiurges are believed to be buried within its reach, tainting its lands, adding to the sense of unease that overcomes outsiders entering that primal realm.
Testament to the depth of such superstitions has been the Korachani empire’s reluctance to explore the region, which is found so close to the capital’s doorstep, even though its explorers have charted all of the world’s seas and marched thousands of miles south into far more inimical lands.
Despite this almost preternatural distrust of the region, the scattered progress of technarcane arts and the coming of industrialisation between 1400 and 1800 RM saw nations as disparate as Korachan, Laaskha, Azazem, Almagest, Pelasgos, Ahrishen, Saua and Vârr growing hungry for natural resources. As old sources became depleted, they looked elsewhere to sate their hunger. Beneath the forest hid a great wealth of resources - coal, umbra, gems and ores in abundance, and the forest itself was a thoughtless source of fuel. Strip mines, quarries, refineries and lumber-yards all appeared, rapidly consuming huge swathes of the forest’s edge. Every passing year moved its borders dozens of miles from the coast until all that remained were scattered pockets.
By 2200 RM the forest was no longer a singular expanse. It had been reduced to various smaller forests, the largest of which were the Old Forest in the west, the Malani forest in the east, and Kolchis (?*) in the north. The industries that had replaced the forests had mostly fallen dormant by 2800 RM, leaving abandoned pits, polluted lakes and thousands of square-miles of tree stumps. Fertile land changed to dust which blew over the forest into the lands that would later become known as the Desolation of Astudan.
That millennium of expansion and exploitation became known as the Forest Wars, not after its battles, but its wanton destruction of the region. What little trust could exist between the civilised world and the Old Forest was shattered by that period, which decimated hundreds of locations sacred to the religions and cultures of the forest, leaving them xenophobic and highly protective of what remained of their world. They clung even harder to their barbaric beliefs, butchering any and all missionaries and crusades into their lands, feeding the very myths that caused outsiders to distrust the forest-dwellers, which are now labelled as witches and druids.
In many ways it is thought that they value the Firmament and Atramenta and the natural world in ways forgotten by those outside their lands. The truth is far more complex and we are unlikely to know for certain the truth behind these people’s way of life. We know little of their cities or their culture, beyond what twisted lies Church bigotry and imperial propaganda have fed us for centuries, and it is unlikely that we will anytime soon.
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