Fellthorn

Fellthorn, a great forested region within the Regal Province of Elevarton and the Duchy of Tarant, has long been a dubious and well-avoided place, save for people on the outskirts of the forest who have made small towns along its borders. The forest is known for its bogs, swamps, horrifying and eldritch inhabitants, and its foreboding appearance. People frequently seek out the many witches who dwell in the forest, leading to Fellthorn being locally referred to as 'The Gravewood' due to the amount of people who have gone missing after entering its shadowy reaches, despite the sparse plain hills of long golden grass which can be seen from vantage points in the surrounding kingdoms.

The massive trees which grow in the forest can sometimes form large canopies that can drop in elevation suddenly as the forest nears the northern mountain, aptly named Mount of Moons, for its unusual sheer black granite face, polished until shiny and sleek by centuries of intermittent snowfall eroding its tough edges smooth. Tall, inviting plains line the area just inside parts of the forest, along hills which stretch deep into the wood, virtually untouched. However, like all things in this forest, appearances of any sort cannot be trusted, for the safety of the visitor. Yet, all things within pay fealty to the Fellthorn Witches. There isn't a creature inside who would seek to harm them, with even more of them being sworn by nature into their service under the gaze of Severa, Goddess of the Beldyn Caul. Severa bears seven faces, or seven different forms and incarnations she may appear as. Though physical appearances from Gods to their constituents are rare in the here and now, Severa is unique in that she happens to appear at a whim, most often—-tricking men into her bed, granting gifts to women in need, blessing children of the wood with powers unseen—-these are all things which fit under her purview. Her incarnations are the Sister of the Swamp, Crone of the Copse, Mother of Mud, Hag of Harvests, Bride of Bones, Teg of Tombs, and Wife of Winter. Only thrice have they ever converged to form a single Goddess of one body—-her conception in the murky black tar between light and dark under the noonday moon in the rain of the first Beldyn, copulation with Morteval, The Expected, and the subsequent birth of her only child by Morteval: Dame Thara Grimgold. Morteval the Expected is A Dagweild Demon, one of the 77 servants of Shar who emerged from the tar-black lakes of the blackwoods of Illerageld to create the first night and paint the sky black, so that all could see the stars when the light of the sun returned. It is said that Severa conceived the child as payment to Morteval, though no one knows why—-only that she was sired during the coldest Month of Dew in memory beneath the stars in a bog of blood.

Sentient habitants of the forest are quite normally some of the more abnormal or altogether shunned communities of the multiverse gathered in one wood—-Severa has great love for all things odd, misunderstood, hated, and unusual, for she is the mother that they were all denied. The conglomerate of their bulk are called 'Ellivan,' or Thornspeech for 'Those who come.' They are allowed residence in the forest, make offerings to Severa and her many Witches, and serve at the hand of her daughter Thara. No race has ever been turned away for entry into the fold, save for any who are disingenuous in their heart. Succubi and Incubi also inhabit the Northeast region of the forest (near the borders of the Kingdom of Queterais) in intricately carved caves—-the scent of rosewater and sweet sweat can be nosed from a mile radius around their homes. The women are frequently welcomed into the arms of the Fellthorn witches, but all others make habits of traveling far and wide to practice their strange trade with great fervor and enjoyment. They can bring a variety of special spell components that are usually only used in particular rituals known to the Fellthorn witches—-'trinket of the missing husband' and 'trinket of the unknowing wife.' They live to around 120 years without a healthy sex life, but with a healthy sex life they may live in perpetuity. Though, very few live to be all that old on the account of all the dubious and scathing rumors surrounding them.

To the center of the forest in the Bogwoods are short creatures known as Bloodlets. The Bogwoods are quite damp and waterlogged, but also house these creatures with armored shells that resemble the surface of the bog and will leap out to kill passersby with rudimentary tools, usually offering bones to Severa as the Bride of Bogs. A bloodlet is best described as squat, feral creatures resembling underfed albino gnomes, without hair save that which they normally grow into braids along the center strips of their skulls. They dwell in huts made from sanbrick (a blood red clay that forms the Bogwood's odd, foggy, bloody appearance) which can be above or below the surface, or built around the trunk of a tree like a hive. They are only capable of rudimentary speech, but they pay fealty to the Fellthorn Witches. On one occasion, they were asked by the witches to remove a large group of soldiers from the border of the forest and it was so incredibly successful, many of them still wear the rusted, unkempt armor they tore from the bodies of the soldiers.

More recently is the immigration of a Gudrok population, recently torn from their ancestral home from a nearby mountain 15 miles outside the West of Fellthorn, when a Feudal Lord of the Kingdom of Beritend erected a castle there after paying them a paltry sum of livestock. When they discovered the livestock was sick with some mad fever, nearly the whole lot of them died after eating the meat. It was determined thereafter to be a purposeful culling. Gudrok are a form of troll which like to form societies, cave villages, and mud pits at the base of woody mountains. They adore mud. The remaining Gudrok kept walking away from the land of Beritend, and thankfully the witches took pity on them, therefore leaving and his kin alone under the promise to do no harm. After sickness or starvation took the other Gudrok, only one remained: Thog of Mud. He is one of the few living creatures to have ever coexisted with leshens—-leshens by nature of the magic which binds them to natural creatures are not hostile to Gudrok. Leshens are normally soulbound spirits who were tied to the forest in which they choose to coexist—-and only very few know how to actually permanently get rid of one. Upon the destruction of one body, they easily leap to another since they are easily formed from random forested detritus—-though usually consisting of a skeletal head, and an elongated bipedal body made from wood and other refuse. 

Thara Grimgold was successful in saving Thog of Mud from a group of slavers who had by some strange unfortunate miracle managed to collar him and cage him to take him to Beritend for sale, ending their lives with the familiar eldritch gusto to which the Fellthorn Witches are accustomed. Gudrok are famously good for hard labor since they can literally break stone with their hands and heads, and carve into them with their nails, which are actually extensions of their bone—-hence the attraction they might serve to slavers. He serves Thara now, at Bogrant Estate towards the Southwestern end of the Forest, along the Trail of Red Moss.

The Fellthorn Witches themselves are considered High Priestesses of Severa, worshiping her and inheriting Severa's slightly nefarious trickster's ways—-but also her matronly nature, incredible kindness, deep love of all things strange and misunderstood, and above all…an endless well of retributory wrath against undeserved wrongs. In addition, the Witches provide all manner of goods, spells, herbalism, alchemy, and otherwise magely duties to all those who enter the woods seeking their help—-though a great many in the wrong spirit do not receive what exactly they asked for. The villages around the outskirts of the forest and lying just outside the discomforting comforts of its borders are considered under the protection of the Witches and Severa, and are the Witches' most frequent patrons. Most of the families have lived there for centuries and some join the Ellivan as Priests or Heralds of Severa, but most often they stick to their simple rural farm lives and trade with the Witches. Newcomers to the villages who come to settle are most often simple folk who have known of Severa in addition to other Gods and seek to live within the areas beneath her dominion to escape the complicated tumult of the surrounding Kingdoms.

In the past 70 years since the birth of Thara and the Black Eclipse of the Third Moon, the Forest has come under considerable outside pressure from kingdoms who have long forgotten why it is necessary to give Fellthorn a wide berth. The forest abuts the Kingdom of Beritend in the West and the Kingdom of Queterais in the East—-and neither of them, for nearly 300 years, could decide where it was that the lines between the two kingdoms fell. After they both on seven separate occasions tried moving armies through it to get to the other and nary a soldier managed to report to the other side—-they were thoroughly convinced that any further movements into the forest during a crucial hour would be a bad idea. There was at one time not long ago that a loose halfway line was formed in the forest which cut the mountain of the north in two, but Thara Grimgold managed to swindle the whole forest from both sides to protect her people. When Lord Skeyla Bogrant built Bogrant Estate in the South and went to Thara to ask for a philter of potency to ensure he impregnated his wife, Thara formed a contract with him as payment, asking that on the child's 5th nameday that he return with the dress of a Queterais Dame, a candle, and an ingot of gold as payment. Having gotten what he wanted seemingly for free, five years passed, and Lord Skeyla did nothing to repay Thara. Five years and nine months passed, and Lord Skeyla did not return. The following day, Thara showed up at his doorstep to find unsurprisingly that he'd died in the front garden, drowned in the fountain by a nest of thorny brambles. He'd forgotten to read the ramifications of the contract of course—-Thara would become his sole heir to all lands, titles, and property in the event that she was not paid for services rendered. Lawyers of Beritend in attendance were forced, under contractual obligation when she conjured the scroll, to pass her the lands, titles, and keys, making Thara a Dame of the Forest and putting her in control of the entire Western half of the forest and its outlying estates. Thog of Mud took residence with her as a manservant after dismissing all other members of Bogrant's staff.

After hearing of the Beritend incident, the Kingdom of Queterai in the East sent witch hunters into the forest because they wanted to log the trees and dig the bogs, thinking that there would be no opposition from such a surprise. Thara and the Witches mounted them all on spikes of briarwood just outside the forest. They then sent the army, and the outcome was relatively the same, except she called upon the Bloodlets in service of Severa and Ellivan Warriors to eradicate their forces on the backs of Bears made from rose vines and red moss. She then invaded the home of the nearest Vassal lord to take him hostage in his own home and announced that she'd put the whole Kingdom in a state of ruination unless someone dispatched a courier to fetch the King of Queterais, Roi Regus Je Taum. Roi Je Taum rode in with a small entourage in secret so as to save himself a public embarrassment, and offered his complete cooperation. Thara asked him for his half of the Forest and a tract of land just outside it to put all outlying villages in her jurisdiction. The Roi agreed and asked her what she'd like to do with the Lord she took hostage—-just before she fed the squalling Lord to the Bloodlets in full view of the Roi, solidifying her place as the new Dame of the region (a Dame of Two Kingdoms no less), warning the Roi to never breach the walls again, and watched him ride off one last time. 

Fellthorn

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