The Forest

One day, when humans still walked the Earth, a young fox from the City with a big bushy tail grew tired of sifting through refuse, and set out on an adventure. They knew in their bones, blood and fur that their destiny lurked in the old woods, to the west, in a place of perfect stillness, where no whispering breeze disturbed the surface of a clear, blue lake.

– The opening of Bushy-Tail's Tale, an old forest story

The forest is a place of stories and wild dreams. Its folk tend to be proud of their understanding of mysterious things, things that go deeper than the legacy of humanity. They also tend to band together tightly, sharing and caring for their neighbours. The forest is a place of bounty, even in the Winter months, comparatively speaking. It is also a place where it's easy for anyone who ends up isolated from the group to end up permanently lost, to the twisting places and forgotten paths.

In the forest, it is notably more common to find someone whose great-grandfather's ex-husband actually met a Spirit, sitting down with them for tea and a game of Soul-Cards. There have even been people who've traced a tenuous skein of connections back to a midnight's glimpse of the White Raccoon themself.

On the eastern edge of the forest, where the trees give way to concrete, there lies a border-place, where the strangenesses of wood and city meld. Tall, winding structures of rusted metal, curving in on themselves like serpents, from which hang pods. A great wheel, also pod-bespeckled, that gazes out like an unblinking eye over both worlds. Greenery from the forest entangles its way through the ruins. This yard of skeletons, their purposes unfathomable, has always evoked wonder, and a strange, haunted sense of elation, producing a giddy transcendence of daily worries. This is especially true for birds and climbing creatures, who perch on the heights of these structures, and watch the whole world as if it's a dream.

This feeling is no doubt part of the reason this place has become the centre of the story-festival known as the Carnival. Another reason is its border-status, lying between the forest, with its particularly committed storytelling culture, and the City and the other environs beyond it. The Carnival tells a more specific tale of its origins as well: that storytellers began gathering here in order to compete over who could come up with the most compelling explanation for the bizarre structures. The competition was ultimately semi-formalised, and extended beyond, into all other avenues of story. Today, it is the place the forest-animals most readily channel the competitive tendencies they generally abhor, while welcoming visitors from further afield who may often fear venturing further into the wood, and renewing the forest's stock of stories from these encounters.

The marshland, reeds and small lakes of the Mire are home to more varieties of insect than anywhere else in the region, and many fish and other water-dwellers. The Landborne often make their way around on gondolas (too large to be piloted by Water Boatmen, but benefitting from their navigatory expertise), with baskets of food and gossip to share with their neighbours in their bank-side burrows.

There are stories of treacherous lights leading wanderers astray in the Mire, especially as the nights grow longer in Winter, but the denizens of the forest are used to banding together to minimise the risks of such lone wandering.

At a certain depth, the woods become like a maze. The undergrowth grows thicker, tangles and prickles and stings. You've come this way before. You're certain of it. Even in the Winter, as so many plants die, the paths do not become notably clearer.

There are so many stories about the Deep-Wood Places. They are the heart of the forest's strangeness; not, as in the City, the strangeness of the humans and their left-behind things, but the strangeness of the things that always were.

If you tread through two trees that lean against each other like a gateway just so, you may find yourself in the lantern-strewn web-hall of Granny Moth-Spider (Whose Many Eyes Glitter Through The Trees At Twilight, And Whose Teeth Go Snappity-Snap). If you’re in good luck, she might challenge you to a riddle game.

Somewhere, so the many variants of Bushy-Tail's Tale insists, there is a lake, that lies at the forest's very heart. A place of perfect stillness. The eye of all storms.

Bushy-Tail II, Lord of the Revels (she/her): An example of nominative determinism, Bushy-Tail is a squirrel who became unusually fascinated (even for a forest-dweller) with the legend of her namesake, and with storytelling more broadly. She triumphed in last year's storytelling competition at the Carnival, and has thus been given the title Lord of the Revels, which in practice means she has to take on a lot of the hard logistical work of organising this year's Carnival.

Brockleforth the Hermit (he/him): Unusual for a forest-dweller, Brockleforth prefers his own company, wandering a lonely path through the Deep-Wood Places, pondering on their strangeness. This irascible badger begrudgingly spends more time in inhabited areas as Winter draws nearer, and, when plied with the right presents, he has been known to share a story or two of his wanderings.

Wendridge the Gondolier (they/them): A waterboatperson by species and trade, this tiny navigator is an expert at traversing the choppy by-ways of the Mire. They will be offended if you offer them payment.

Dearheart Lovejoy (she/any): An enthusiastic community organiser and proponent of the Helping Paw movement, Dearheart seeks to ensure nobody is left out of the preparations for Winter. She is a deer.

Toadstool (he/him): A kindly green toad who is extremely wise and sociable. Usually found sat on a lily pad in the marshland of The Mire. He is more than happy to share a passing conversation or helping hand to anybody who approaches.

  • forest.txt
  • Last modified: 2023/07/17 14:39
  • by gm_geraint